JAPAN, GODZILLA AND THE ATOMIC BOMB
A Study into
the Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Japanese Pop Culture
John Rocco Roberto
From Desperation to Inspiration
During the flight back to Tokyo
Tomoyuki Tanaka sat in his seat a worried man. Ordinary looking, having
inherited the short stocky build characteristic of many Japanese men, he
had just celebrated the passing of his forty-fourth birthday, and was about
to celebrate his tenth year as a producer at the Toho Motion Picture Company.
Until now he had done quite well for the studio, having produce a number
of hits. But this time things had not gone so well. “On the
plane ride back to Tokyo, I was desperate,” Tanaka recalled.“ I was
sweating the whole time.” The year was 1954, and the film he intended
to make was to have been In the Shadow of Glory
, co-produced in cooperation
with the Indonesian government. The plans for the film, however,
fell through when Tanaka could not get work permits for the film’s stars.
Having a budget for a war film, but having no film to shoot, Tanaka agonized
at the prospect of losing face in the eyes of his company. But it
was during that plane ride that, as Guy Tucker argues, “desperation became
his friend ... and would lend him an idea that would develop into something
far larger and more enduring than the project he left behind.”
That “larger and more enduring”
something was the film Godzilla
, released by Toho in 1954.
Fans of the Japanese science fiction/fantasy genre around the globe will
celebrated the 50th anniversary of the birth of Godzilla, the “King of the
Monsters,” on November 3rd, 2004, for it was on that date in 1954 that Toho
Studios unleashed Godzilla on an unsuspecting public. However, one
could argue that the true date of Godzilla’s birth was not November 3rd,
1954, but August 6th, 1945, the day the United States dropped the atomic
bomb on Hiroshima.
At the end of the Second World
War Japan was devastated; physically, politically and financially.
The people of the nation were starving and homeless, and their spirits
had been broken. There was an atmosphere of hopelessness, known only
too well to Haruo Nakajima, who served in the Imperial Army during the
war, and who would go on to play Godzilla in eleven films. “There
was a feeling of great despair [all around]. It was very difficult
for people to find work at this time,” Nakajima recalled. The intensity of
the Japanese reaction to their defeat, and the devastation brought on by
it, is evident in their present anti-nuclear policies. Their inner feelings
towards this defeat, however, have never been fully examined. But
one place to start that examination could be through analyzing two important
Japanese films in the context of their times: Godzilla
Gigantis the Fire Monster
(1955), known in Japan and in this discussion
by the titles Gojira
and Gojira no Gyakushu
Japan After the War
The history of Japan's
film industry after 1945 provides the context for the making of these films.
Japan’s post war industries made one of the most remarkable recoveries in
the history of the modern world. One of their most vital was their
film industry, which had started back in 1896 when the first Edison Kinescopes
were imported into the country. In 1912 the Japan Cinematograph Company
was founded, and by 1932 a businessman named Yasuji Uemura founded Shashin
Kagaku Kenkyu-jo (Photo Chemical Laboratories, or PCL), which produced Japan’s
first musical Intoxicated Life
(1933). Directed by Sotoji
Kimura and sponsored by the Dai-Nippon Beer Company; perhaps it is not
surprising, given the Dai-Nippon Beer Company's sponsorship, that Intoxicated
Life was about the pleasures of drunkenness.
PCL’s success in producing musicals
attracted the attention of Japanese railroad magnate Ichizo Kobayashi,
who in 1935 absorbed PCL into his own expanding entertainment empire.
In 1936, after having acquired two other film production companies - J.O.
Studios (the “O” stood for Osawa, the founder of the studio and the "J"
for Jenkins, after the name of the American made sound system), and Osaka
Mainichi Talkie Newsreels - Kobayashi united with Iwao Mori to meld the
three film companies into one distribution company. Kobayachi and
Mori named this new studio Toho, which was the abbreviation for Tokyo Takarazuka.
When the Japanese Imperial Army invaded China
in 1937, the Japanese film industry came under the control of Japan’s
fascist propaganda unit, the Office of Public Information. As a
result, the Toho Company’s facilities would be employed to produce such
propagandistic smash hits as The War At Sea from Hawaii to Malay
(1942). The company’s success with the war film genre was thanks
in large part to the efforts of Toho's co-founder Iwao Mori, who was instrumental
in developing the studio’s visual effects department. Upon Japan’s
defeat, and during the following American occupation, Mori was exiled from
the industry by the U.S. Army’s Civil Censorship Division (SCAP), due to
his involvement in Toho’s war propaganda films. The SCAP office imposed
a list of prohibited subjects, which included:
“…anything infused with militarism,
revenge, nationalism, or anti-foreignism; distortion of history; approval
of religious or racial discrimination; favoring or approving feudal loyalty
or treating human life lightly; direct or indirect approval of suicide;
approval of the oppression or degradation of wives; admiration of cruelty
or unjust violence; anti-democratic opinion; exploitation of children;
and opposition to the Potsdam Declaration or any SCAP order.”
Under SCAP guidelines Japanese
directors were to stress how all Japanese “were endeavoring to construct
a peaceful nation [and] how soldiers and repatriates were being rehabilitated
into civilian life.” The result was a series of poor films half-hearted
in their execution. Some films, like Kaneto Shindo’s Genbaku no
(Children of the Atomic Bomb, 1953), which sole theme was the horror
of the bombings, and Keisuke Kinoshita’s Nijushi no Hitomi
Eyes, 1954) which tackled the subject of militarism and political repression
in 1930s Japan, rose above SCAP restrictions. Most films produced at
this time, however, were flat and did not reflect their director’s personal
vision. By the early 1950s Toho, plagued by strike and tax difficulties,
was tottering on its last legs. Something had to be done, and that
something turned out to be the rehiring of Mori. Kobayashi argued
that Mori was “the only company man for whom Toho's filmmakers felt affection.”
Mori returned once again as chief executive at the company. His knowledge
of what made a good film and his expertise both in front of the cameras and
behind them, almost single-handedly reversed the company’s postwar fortunes.
The "Second Atomic Bombing of Mankind"
Other events beyond the confines
of the film industry also shaped the making of Gojira
. In March of 1954, Japan suffered from another nuclear
disaster, though far smaller in scale than the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. In the early morning hours on March 1, the twenty-three-man
crew of the fishing ship, Fukuryu Maru
(Lucky Dragon) inadvertently
sailed into the range of an American hydrogen bomb test site. The
"Bravo" hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll was about 85 miles away from
the Fukuryu Maru
. The blast, equivalent to about twelve million
tons of TNT, was 750 to 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb
dropped on Hiroshima. It was also twice as powerful as U.S. scientists
had led the world to expect. “The sky in the west suddenly lit up
and the sea became brighter than day,” Fukuryu Maru
crew member Yoshio
Misaki recalled. “We watched the dazzling light, which felt heavy.
Seven or eight minutes later there was a terrific sound; like an avalanche.
Then a visible multi-colored ball of fire appeared on the horizon.” For
several hours after the test, white ash began falling onto the decks of
the Fukuryu Maru
and crew members began collecting bags of it as
souvenirs. Before nightfall that day, everyone on board the fishing
boat was ill.
The crew of the Fukuryu Maru
is believed to be among the first civilians ever confirmed to have been
accidentally exposed to fallout from a nuclear weapon. All twenty-three
people on board the boat were hospitalized after returning to Japan, and
one of them, radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama, died seven months later of
kidney failure reported to be caused by radiation (although it was later
revealed that he had in fact died of an unrelated case of hepatitis).
Several hundred inhabitants of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific, as
well as nearly thirty U.S. personnel connected with the tests, also became
ill from the nuclear fallout. The Fukuryu Maru
a crisis in relations between the United States and Japan, in part because
of Washington’s attempted to maintain secrecy over its nuclear tests. The
debate centered on whether the ship’s crew was at fault or whether the
radius affected by the test far exceeded the estimated range and had in
fact caught the ship in supposedly safe waters. The incident was dubbed
“The Second Atomic Bombing of Mankind” by the Japanese press. Eventually
the U.S. government issued an apology and paid $2 million in compensation
to the Japanese Government, but the incident continued to generate controversy.
Fearing nuclear contamination, the Japanese destroyed tons of fish caught
in the affected area of the Pacific. As a nation, the Japanese avoided
fish for months after the Fukuryu Maru
incident, resulting in millions
of dollars in losses for the country's fishing industry and related businesses.
It was this situation that inspired
the Toho Company to make its first movie monster a radiation-mutated sea
creature terrorizing mankind, and planted the seed in Tanaka’s mind as
to how to replace his aborted war film, In The Shadow of Glory
Tanaka had impressed Mori with his idea to replace In The Shadow of
with his idea about “a monster that invades Tokyo the way King
Kong attacked New York,” and without Mori’s support it is doubtful that
the project would have ever have gotten off the ground. But Mori liked
the project and the go ahead was given. Now the task of producing
Tanaka's "radiation monster" film (which would be Gojira
) was in
the hands of director Ishiro Honda and special effects supervisor Eiji Tsuburaya.
The Age of the Gods
Eiji Tsuburaya was a veteran
cinematographer who Mori knew could produce the extravagant, special effects-laden
films, which the Japanese called "special techniques" films. Few technicians
in the field of visual effects have ever achieved his notoriety or respect.
Tsuburaya’s particular knowledge of special techniques far outstripped
that of any of his contemporaries. Mori knew this, and in 1940, he
chose Tsuburaya to head the Japanese film industry’s first special effects
department. “I was the only one in the department,” Tsuburaya later
wrote. “That was pretty weird.” Tsuburaya would work, usually
alongside director Kajiro Yamamoto, on highly ambitious war pictures.
His special effects were of such high quality that, following the war,
the American Occupation forces frequently mistook his surviving fictional
films for Japanese-produced newsreel footage. Unfortunately for him,
Tsuburaya, like Mori, would also be exiled from the industry by the SCAP
after the war. But when the occupation ended, Tsuburaya was invited
back to Toho, where he and Mori took up where they had left off, producing
the first Japanese war picture in eight years, Eagle of the Pacific
which was directed by Ishiro Honda.
Ishiro Honda, Mori’s choice for
director, had served in the Imperial Army during the war. Before the
war Honda had worked under director Sadao Yamanaka at Toho. With director
Kajiro Yamamoto, he co-directed such works as the subtly antiwar film Humanity
and Paper Balloons
(1937) and Tojuro’s Love
(1938), before being
sent with the Imperial Army to China. Yamanaka died a common soldier, but
Honda survived to become a sergeant. In 1944, between his second
and third tours of duty in the Imperial Army, Honda returned to Tokyo to
work with Yamamoto as second assistant on Colonel Kato’s Falcon Squadron
(1944), a wartime-spirit picture made during the period when Tokyo was
being fire-bombed by the U.S. Air Force. Eventually he returned to
China just as the Japanese regime was collapsing, and spent the last part
of the war as a prisoner of war there. In 1946 he returned to Japan,
passing through the atomic-bombed shell of the city of Hiroshima.
It was then that he became interested in publicizing the horror and devastation
of war through his chosen medium (Honda did not agree with Japan's wartime
ideology, and believed that war was a great waist of human life. His
attitude is reflected in "The Tunnel" sequence of Akira Kurosawa's Dreams
which Honda co-wrote and directed. The sequence depicts a returning
war veteran being confronted by the ghost of his fallen men, who, even in
death, are ready to follow their commander's orders. Honda however,
understood and respected the age-old system of honor. He enlisted in
the Imperial Army out of a sense of duty). When examining Gojira
it is important to remember that Japan was the only nation in history to
have been the victim of nuclear weapons. As Honda said, “When I returned
from the war [in China], and passed through Hiroshima, there was a heavy
atmosphere, a fear that the world was already coming to an end.”
Also as important to Honda were
Japan’s attitudes and fears of the early 1950s. The Second World War
was less than ten years ended and the Japanese were still laboring under
the consequences of their failure and defeat. America had shaped the
rebuilding and restructuring of Japan, affecting everything from industry
to the political structure. Around Japan the Cold War expanded and
nuclear tests took place, adding to Japan’s fears for its people, country,
and for the world. The shaky post-war situation and the “heating up”
of the Cold War in Southeast Asia combined with the Japanese peoples' shock
over the Fukuryu Maru
incident to set the stage for Gojira.
In producing Gojira
, special effects master
Eiji Tsuburaya, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, and director Ishiro Honda accomplished
a feat unequaled at the time. In the guise of a typical Hollywood-style
"monster movie," they made Japan, and ultimately the world, experience the
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki all over again.
the mysterious disappearances of several Japanese fishing ships.
Natives of nearby Ohto Island rescue the survivors of these shipwrecks.
In the hopes of discovering the causes of these disasters the Japanese government
sends a small research team to the island. While on the island, the
research team observes a traditional ritual to appease a sea demon called
Gojira. That night, during a storm, a strange force destroys several
houses in the village.
On the mainland, the survivors
of the night’s devastation describe the events to the Japanese officials.
In a speech to the Japanese government, noted paleontologist Dr.
Yamane advises the authorities to sponsor a full research team to the island.
During the investigation the next morning Gojira appears over the hill
tops. Meanwhile, Dr. Yamane’s daughter, Emiko, who is engaged to controversial
research scientist Dr. Serizawa, has fallen in love with a sailor named
Ogata. But when she tries to tell Serizawa of her love for another,
he reveals to her the secret weapon he has developed - the Oxygen Destroyer
- and swears her to secrecy. With thhis terrible knowledge, Emiko cannot
bring herself to break off the engagement with Serizawa.
After the discovery of Gojira,
Dr. Yamane begs the authorities to study the creature. Instead,
the Japanese Defense Force attacks Gojira at sea with depth charges.
That night, the citizens of Tokyo celebrate Gojira’s destruction, until
the monster appears in Tokyo Bay and wrecks the dock area. The next
day, the authorities surround Tokyo with electrical towers, but when Gojira
returns that night, the monster pushes right through them and destroys
the city. The next day, thousands of people are victims of Gojira’s
Emiko tells Ogata about Serizawa’s
work; perhaps the only hope humanity has against Gojira. But later,
when she and Ogata confront the doctor, the scientist refuses to use his
invention. Finally, convinced that Gojira is a greater threat than
his invention, Serizawa agrees to help Ogata plant the device. As
Gojira sleeps in Tokyo Bay, the two detonate the Oxygen Destroyer.
Serizawa remains behind to die, taking the secret of his ultimate weapon
with him. As the sea foams, Gojira surfaces briefly, then sinks to
the bottom, where the Oxygen Destroyer melts the flesh from his bones.
, the monster
Godzilla is the United States’ atomic bomb, devastating Tokyo and reducing
it to a radioactive cinder all in one night. Originally conceived by
Tsuburaya as a giant mutated octopus, producers Tanaka and Mori felt that
a giant dinosaur-type creature (mutated through the effects of atomic testing),
would have more appeal and be more threatening to land-based civilizations;
after all, an octopus which lived in the ocean could only be threatening
to coastal communities. Honda agreed, saying that “Ever since I was
little, I have been fond of the fact that there was once an awesome era
of the Earth, when dinosaurs were living in the Jurassic and Cretaceous.
When word went out about the production, images of dinosaur-monsters were
already brewing in my head.” In Honda’s conception, the monster Godzilla
would not merely be awakened by the bomb; instead “He would be twisted and
mutated by it, into a rampaging uncontainable force; the A-bomb made flesh.”
To capture Honda's vision,
the task of designing and constructing the main Godzilla costume went
to Ryosaku Takayama, and the role of playing the creature went to Haruo
Nakajima. “It was the first time I met Eiji Tsuburaya,” Nakajima
recalls, “and Godzilla was in pre-production. I was introduced by
the casting director. Mr. Honda, the director, and Mr. Tsuburaya
were smiling. I was asked if I would take the role of Godzilla and
I said okay.” With Takayama’s design and Nakajima’s portrayal, the
result was one of the most inspired creations in film history, combining
the appearance of a therapod dinosaur with the distinctive "oriental" look
of a dragon. “My first impression was the feeling of something new
and exciting. The atomic bombings did not immediately come to mind,
[but] shortly after I was offered the role I realized, that although it
would be possible to replace all of the members of the staff and all the
other actors, it would not be possible to replace me. I also realized that
if I didn't go into work, none of the members of the special effects staff
would be able to do their work. All this gave me a tremendous sense
of pride. I studied the movements of large animals to re-create the
lumbering walk of a large creature.”
As production got under way and
the shooting script was finalized, Honda and Tsuburaya explored Tokyo looking
for locations Godzilla could destroy. The two scouted from the roofs
of department stores and it was while they sat atop of the roof of the
Matsuzakaya Department Store, gleefully planning the city’s destruction
that one of the funniest stories of the production occurred. “We were
discussing the possibility of starting a fire at Shimbashi and having it
spread to Ginza,” Honda said. “We wondered what people would be thinking
if they overheard our conversation. Sure enough, at the first floor
exit, we were stopped and investigated.” However, it was not only
the monster, but also the story behind Gojira, which set the production
Takeo Murata and Ishiro Honda’s
screenplay is a subtle retelling of the Second World War through the eyes
of Japan. Unlike typical monster films of the time, the strong character-driven
plot and the special effects combined to present a glimpse of the Japanese
psyche in a time of war.
opens as the Japanese
merchant ship Eiko-Maru disappears below the surface of the ocean as a
blinding flash of light explodes from the sea, accompanied by searing heat
and an unearthly, deafening roar. As rescue ships are deployed into
the area they too become victims of this unseen force. Japan is threatened
and the country gears up to defend itself as the suspense builds.
Japan “entering” the war is represented by these numerous ship disasters
at the beginning of the film. The disappearance of the merchant ships
mirrored Second World War events. As Guy Tucker reports, “Many such
merchant vessels were literally wiped from the face of the sea by American
submarines, and this fact was greatly played upon by Honda.”
The conflict quickly escalates
as a fishing village on the small island of Ohto is attacked; the horror
of war having hit home on the innocent is portrayed as the faceless enemy
destroys the village. It is at this point in the film that Honda
introduces Dr. Kyohei Yamane, Japan’s leading paleontologist, who heads
the investigation into the disturbing phenomena. Yamane is played by
Takashi Shimura, a regular member of Akira Kurosawa’s stable of actors and
star of Kurosawa’s Ikuru
(1952) and Seven Samarai
It is while Dr. Yamane investigates the disaster on the small island of
Ohto that Honda finally reveals the face of the enemy. Assisted by
his daughter Emiko (played by Momoko Kochi), and her fiancée Hideto
Ogata (played by Akira Takarada), Dr. Yamane stumbles upon Godzilla’s hulking
bulk peering over the mountain tops. Although a product of atomic
testing, Godzilla’s symbolization of the atomic bomb is not yet made evident
to the audience.
It is at this point in the film
that Honda includes two important plot references to the Second World War.
After Godzilla’s initial appearance on Ohto Island, Dr. Yamane returns
to Tokyo to address the Japanese Diet. While explaining the possible origins
of Godzilla based on his findings on Ohto Island, Yamane makes a startling
announcement. “...howcan we explain the presence of such a creature
during the present day?” Yamane reports. “It probably survived by eating
deep sea organism occupying a specific niche. However, recent experimental
nuclear detonations may have drastically altered its natural habitat.”
Yamane continues, “I would even speculate that an atomic explosion may
have removed it from its ssurroundings." Thisstatement causes a stir of
discussion to circle the conference chamber, and Yamane is questioned on
it. “Professor, how do you know that this has something to do with
the atomic bombs?” a reporter ask. “Because our Geiger counter readings
of the radiation in [the] sand indicate the presence of Strontium-90.” Yamane
rreplies. “...thissand that came from Godzilla has absorbed a massive
dose of radiation the type only generated from an atomic explosion.”
At this news the delegates fall into heated debate over whether the information
should be released to the general public.
Honda then follows this sequence
by introducing us to three people (two men and one woman), reading about
Godzilla while riding on a train. “It’s terrible,” the woman comments.
“Atomic sea life and radioactive fallout , and now this Godzilla to top
it all off! What will happen if it appears in Tokyo Bay?” Her companion
answers, “First, he’ll probably eat you in one bite.” “You’re horrible,”
she responds hitting him. “They seem certain about the accuracy of
their report. How could we create such a thing?” Her second
companion replies, “I guess I’ll have to find a shelter soon.” “Find
one for me too,” she ,answers. Groaning her first companion answers,
“The shelters again. That stinks!”
Japan is now at war against Godzilla;
the military buildup, and the Japanese Self-Defense Force's attempts to destroy
Godzilla with depth charges all symbolize Japan’s military might.
Dr. Yamane is a scientist torn between his scientific desire to study Godzilla
and learn about the creature’s ability to survive radiation, and his need
as a Japanese citizen to see Godzilla destroyed before Japan is devastated.
Dr. Yamane's internal conflict is symbolic of Japanese feelings during
the war; not everyone supported the wartime government’s militaristic views,
represented in Gojira by the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s quick response
in trying to destroy Godzilla. The point is brought further home
by the revelation that the love interest between Dr. Yamane’s daughter,
Emiko, and Naval Officer Hideto Ogata, conflicts with an arranged marriage
between Emiko and Dr. Daisuke Serizawa, a long-time friend of her family.
Their characters represent the many young wartime couples struggling with
the often-conflicting demands of honor, duty and love. The conflict
between Emiko’s engagement to Serizawa, her love for Ogata and her desire
to honor her father’s wishes to study Godzilla (even though her own desire
is to see the monster destroyed), symbolizes how the old ways of Japan
are coming to an end at the same time as a new and possibly terrible era
is about to be born. “Japan was changing,” Tanaka said, “the world was
changing, and the youth reflected these changes in abandoning the old ways.”
As the film progresses, and Dr.
Yamane, Emiko and Ogata debate the most likely way of destroying Godzilla,
Godzilla attacks the harbor district of Tokyo. His thundering footsteps
can be heard throughout the great city, sounding hauntingly similar to the
American bombs which exploded there ten years before. Honda had been
on furlough during the fire bombings of Tokyo, and had witnessed much of
the worst destruction. Much of Gojira recalls not only the atomic
bombings, but also much of the total devastation Japan endured during the
war. Honda stated, “It was a matter of getting to the feeling I wanted of
an invisible fear that ... this technology has now even become an environmental
problem.” Up until this point Godzilla is still just a standard monster-on-the-loose
creature; he has not employed his atomic breath. The Japanese Self-Defense
Force makes new plans to stop Godzilla as Japan begins to "lose" the war.
Although he is spoken of earlier
in the film, it is at this point that Honda finally introduces the character
of Dr. Daisuke Serizawa (played by Akihiko Hirata), Japan’s leading scientist,
wounded during the Second World War, and engaged to Emiko. The Dr.
Serizawa character pulls the entire story together, and leads to the most
direct references to the Second World War. Of all the actors to appear
in Gojira, it was Akihiko Hirata’s superb portrayal of the intense Dr.
Serizawa that helps set the film apart from the average monster flick.
The Serizawa character makes the analogies between the story line and Japan's
experiences during World War II explicit. Locked in his Frankensteinesque
laboratory, Serizawa is torn between his betrothal to Emiko (and the Japanese
tradition this represents) and the terrible new weapon of his making, the
Oxygen Destroyer, which when deployed, will "destroy all oxygen" in water
and thus dissolve all living matter (of course if one looks at the actual
physics involved, subtracting the oxygen from water would create a pool
of pure hydrogen).
It is also through the Serizawa
character that Honda makes the strongest connection between Godzilla the
monster and the Second World War. After Godzilla has destroyed the
harbor district, newspaper reporter Hagiwara (played by Sachio Sakai), having
received a tip that the doctor’s work could help defeat Godzilla, convinces
Emiko to introduce him to Dr. Serizawa. Hagiwara is determined to
learn about Serizawa’s work, and questions the doctor (off camera) intensely
about its nature. “I’m afraid you’re mistaken,” Serizawa replies to
Hagiwara’s questioning. “Besides, that’s not even connected with my
field.” Hagiwara persists: “Well, the fact is that our reporter in
Switzerland met with your German friend and heard directly from him that ‘Dr.
Serizawa’s project, when successfully concluded, could rid Japan of Godzilla’.”
“I have no German friends,” insists Serizawa. His adamant denial of
not having any “German friends” suggests a sinister tie between Serizawa’s
experiments and the Nazis, symbolizing Japan’s wartime alliance with Germany.
Failing to get the story he had hoped for, Hagiwara takes his leave, but
Emiko remains, determined to tell Serizawa about her and Ogata. But
before she can speak to him, Serizawa, obviously troubled by Hagiwara’s
questioning, reveals to Emiko his secret. Emiko is shaken by the Oxygen
Destroyer, but promises to keep the doctor’s secret. When she returns
home, Ogata, learning that Emiko did not tell Serizawa, refuses to speak
with her. But soon the distant sounds of the air-raid siren breaks
the somber mood. What is important here is that Honda is once again
exploring the conflict within Japanese society; tradition vs. the modern
(or American) way.
Godzilla attacks Tokyo
for the second time and levels the city; the bomb is dropped. Honda
said of this section of the film, “What was most special was [the idea
of] making radiation visual. By opening his maw and simply exhaling,
Godzilla can vaporize an entire building.” Honda thought that “The
destruction itself is not singular; as a tangible substance, radiation
is probably much like [Godzilla’s breath].” “Ever since those days,”
Honda added, “I’ve felt that the ‘atomic fear’ would hang around our necks
for eternity.” The hospital scenes after Tokyo is destroyed show exactly
what it must have been like for the unfortunate survivors of the Hiroshima
blast. For the first and only time in a kaiju film, the suffering
of the innocent victims is depicted. Here we see the bodies of the
dead, piling up in the halls of the hospital. We see a doctor, holding
a Geiger counter to a young boy’s face and shaking his head, as the reading
is far beyond the danger point. We are shown a group of children,
watching, as a sheet is pulled over their dead mother’s head. They
begin to cry as her body is carried away, Emiko holding the smallest of the
children. “I wanted to say that after this disaster [the bombings],”
Honda said, “no one could know what might happen in the world.”
Mirroring Japan’s failure to
surrender immediately after the Hiroshima bombing, the threat of Godzilla
still exists. However Dr. Serizawa is reluctant to use the Oxygen
Destroyer, and when Emiko, the only person entrusted with his secret, informs
Ogata of the weapon, the two visit the doctor to confront him. This
confrontation between Serizawa, Emiko and Ogata near the end of the film,
even after the destruction brought by Godzilla fails to convince Serizawa,
clearly represents Honda’s questioning whether the atomic bomb should have
ever been used. Although Honda had served during the war, he was opposed
to all forms of military operation. “Bombs vs. Bombs, missiles
vs. missiles, and now a new super weapon to throw upon us all!” Serizawa
argues with Ogata. “As a scientist, no, as a human being I can’t allow
that to happen!” Ogata sees no other way of destroying Godzilla and tries
to convince Serizawa to use the weapon. But Serizawa is adamant, even
if used in secret, the knowledge of its existence would get out. “Even if
I burn my notes, the secret will still be in my head.” Serizawa explains.
“Until I die, how can I be sure I won’t be forced by someone to make the
device again?” Honda is clearly commenting on the proliferation of
nuclear devices developed and built by both America and the Soviet Union
immediately after the Second World War.
It is only after the sight of
Japan’s youth praying for peace (broadcast over scenes of the destruction
and indicating the nation’s weariness of war), that Serizawa is finally
moved to use the Oxygen Destroyer. But not before burning all of his
notes and diagrams, insuring that no trace of the weapons construction can
be reproduced. “Ogata you are right. But this will be the first and
last time I will ever allow the Oxygen Destroyer to be used. ”However,
in Serizawa’s mind that is not enough, and as the Oxygen Destroyer is set
off in Tokyo Bay directly in front of Godzilla, and as Ogata is pulled towards
the surface, Serizawa cuts his own lifeline, telling Ogata, “Be happy together,”
his last words. Serizawa’s sacrifice at the end of the film not only
illustrates the loyalty and self-sacrifice of the Japanese people (for he
knows Emiko is in love with Ogata, not him), but it also demonstrates Serizawa’s
willingness to ensure that not only is Godzilla destroyed, but that the Oxygen
Destroyer, a weapon “more horrible than Godzilla” (the H-bomb?) is never
it was attacked by several quarters for “profiteering from the Lucky Dragon
tragedy.” Although none of the crew members actually died until
September when the film was more than half complete, and later it was
determined that the man had actually died because of an unrelated case
of hepatitis. However what Honda was hoping to convey was the sense
of realism in an unreal situation. “How would people react,” Honda
stated, “if such a huge monster came to the Japanese islands? How
would politicians, scientist, the military react?” “Inevitably under
those circumstances,” Honda said, “the film came to feel like a documentary.
[Godzilla would have been most successful] if there had been some way to
convince the viewer that it was really happening.”
Gojira no Gyakushu
Tsukioka and Kobayashi
are pilots for a small Japanese fishing fleet. While on patrol searching
for schools of tuna, Kobayashi’s plane develops engine trouble and he
is forced to land on remote Iwato Island. He is soon joined by Tsukioka,
and the two men witness a terrible battle between two prehistoric monsters,
one of which is Gojira. Back in Osaka, the pilots tell the authorities
about the creatures. Dr. Yamane warns that these two creatures, one
of which is another Gojira, are as dangerous as the original Gojira, who
wrecked Tokyo months before but was killed by the Oxygen Destroyer.
This “new” Gojira soon approaches Osaka. The city is evacuated, but
escaping prisoners from a local jail start a massive fire, which attracts
the attention of both Gojira and the new creature Angilas.
The two battle in the heart of
the city until Angilas is killed and its body is set afire by Gojira.
The monster departs leaving the city in ruins. Tsukioka and Kobayashi
are transferred to Hokkaido because the Osaka cannery has been destroyed.
News soon follows that Godzilla has struck again, sinking one of the fishing
ships. While on patrol, Kobayashi spots Gojira in a huge ice field.
Radioing Gojira’s position, Kobayashi’s plane is hit by the monster’s
fiery breath, and crashes into the icy mountain.
Though Gojira can not be killed,
Tsukioka realizes that Kobayashi’s death may have given them an idea.
Deciding to bury Gojira under tons of ice, in a second attack, jet fighters
bomb the mountains around the creature. Tons of ice falls on Gojira
in a huge avalanche, entombing the creature in ice, hopefully forever.
is to the bombing
of Hiroshima, then Gojira no Gyakushu
(1955), is to the bombing
of Nagasaki. Although technically inferior compared to the first
film, as this time Honda was not in the director’s seat, the second film
in the Godzilla series explores the reaction of the Japanese public both
during and after the time of war. While sequels were as commonplace
in Japan as in Hollywood, the success of Gojira
took everyone at
Toho, especially Tomoyuki Tanaka by surprise, and plans were quickly made
to rush a sequel into production. This time Takeo Murata and Shigeaki
Hidaka were to pen the script and Eiji Tsuburaya once again supervised
the special effects. Motoyoshi Oda was given the task to direct,
as Ishiro Honda was committed to the company’s Jujin Yukiotoko
Human) film project, although Honda was involved briefly in developing
the Godzilla sequel. Mere months after the release of the original
film, on April 24th, 1955, Gojira no Gyakushu
burst upon the Japanese
In Gojira no Gyakushu
(Godzilla’s Counterattack), the basic plot once again follows the lives
of three people, and how their interaction with each other, as well as
Godzilla, effects their lives. Employed by the Osaka based Kyo Canning
Company, Shoichi Tsukioka and his friend Koji Kobayashi are spotters for
the company’s fishing fleet, searching the ocean in their planes for schools
of fish, and radioing the position to the fleet when a catch is found.
Hiroshi Koizumi, who would go on to star in several of Toho Sci/Fi films
throughout the 1960s and 70s, plays the part of Tsukioka. Kobayashi
is played by Minoru Chiaki, who is best remember to fans of Japanese cinema
as the monk in Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon
(1950). Tsukioka is engaged
to Hidemi Yamaji (played by Setsuko Wakayama), a radio operator at the company
who also happens to be the daughter of company president Koehi Yamaji (played
by Yukio Kasama). It is Tsukioka and Kobayashi who discover the existence
of another Godzilla on a small island, as well as a new creature, Angilas,
which roughly resembles an Ankylosaurus with no real powers when compared
to Godzilla. That Angilas never has a chance is probably the reason
why the creature is so beloved in Japan to this day. “Other than
David and Goliath battles, the Japanese are also fond of characters who
are doomed from the start. Often how Japan views itself, especially
after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but probably going
back as far as the arrival of Commodore Perry’s ships in 1853.”
Concerned over what happened
to Tokyo the year before, the military calls in Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura
reprising his role form Gojira
), who informs the officials of Osaka
that there is no way to stop this new Godzilla, especially as the plans
for the Oxygen Destroyer perished with Dr. Serizawa. Japan is once
again at war, however unlike the first film, this time the story follows
more closely on the effects the threat that Godzilla (i.e. war), has on the
personal lives of the main characters. The first half of the film represents
Japan’s war preparations, and how the threat of war impacts on the lives
of the Japanese people.
A perfect illustration
Oda uses to covey this sense occurs during the scene immediately following
the conference room scene with Dr. Yamane. Tsukioka and Hidemi are
looking over the skyline of Osaka from the roof of the canning company’s
factory. “It will be alright for Osaka?” Hidemi ask. “Well,
I’m not sure what will happen.” Tsukioka answers. “It’s so quiet.
Don’t you think it’s awful?” Hidemi remarks. “Yes, I’m not so use
to it being so quiet.” Tsukioka says looking over the city. “Well,” Hidemi
says smiling, “I don't think we stand a chance.” Tsukioka laughs, “Idiot!
Don’t tell me that’s what you believe too! We’ll pull through it.”
“Then that’s great,” Hidemi adds absent mindfully. “When this is over,”
Tsukioka reassures her, “you can see it for yourself.” “Oh really?”
Hidemi asks, cut off suddenly, as a squadron of jet fighters passing overhead
breaks the eerie silence of the moment.
Oda now shows us plans
being made to try and cope with Godzilla. However, unlike the first
film, where the bombing of Hiroshima (in fact the destruction of all Japan),
is represented by Godzilla’s attack on Tokyo at the end of the film, the
bombing of Nagasaki is represented by the battle between Godzilla and
Angilas in Osaka, about halfway into the film. Hoping to lure Godzilla
away from the city using flares, an explosion caused by a group of escaping
convicts (being transferred to a safe location), brings Godzilla and Angilas
into the heart of Osaka. Now the characters are left to pick up the
pieces again. In fact the focus of this film is much more on the
aftermath of the “bombing,” so much so that Godzilla is not even shown
being driven out or leaving Osaka after killing Angilas. Instead,
Oda uses a scene of Hidemi, simply watching the burning ruins of the city
from the window of her family’s faraway country house. The dead silence
of the land and the night contrast eerily with the unearthly light hovering
over the beleaguered city.
The focus now is on the Confucian
principle and work ethic to pull together and start rebuilding, instead
of focusing on the dead and dying. The “war is over,” and it is time
to rebuild. We are shown scenes of total destruction, but also see
workers toiling to clean out and rebuild Osaka where the characters all work
for their living. From the rooftop where Tsukioka and Hidemi contemplated
future events just days before, Hidemi’s father (and company president) Yamaji
surveys the destruction with company vice president Shibashi. “Shibashi,
that smoke is rising from the area where our factory once stood,” Yamaji
says pointing into the distance. “The damage is much worse than I imagined.”
Shibashi comments. Yamaji turns towards his vice president and adds
“Shibashi, I’m going to rebuild it.” Shibashi smiles, “This is good.
Have you decided on a location for it?” “I am told Hokkaido is a
nice place to operate from,” Yamaji says as the two walk off together.
This is just as it must have been as the Japanese accomplished the most
speedy and thorough economic recovery of the century. These scenes
are especially moving and add a sense of realism to the story. Certainly,
Japan’s kaiju-smashed cities are rebuilt over and over, but this is the first
and only film to show the reconstruction. Godzilla is all but forgotten.
The film also
conveys the sense that life goes on, as Kobayashi and the rest of the workers
of the Kyo Canning Company are relocated to the company’s Hokkaido branch
to continue work. Hokkaido, the northern island of Japan, is pictured
as a winter wonderland, where the workers are enjoying themselves, the threat
of war long since past. The mood is so happy and serene that Bing
Crosby singing “White Christmas” would not seem out of place. The
arrival of the company executives, including Tsukioka, Hidemi, and her father,
further illustrates the joy of life returning to normal. The fishing
fleet is out, the executives are enjoying themselves and Tsukioka is reunited
with his old college buddies.
Then disaster strikes; Godzilla destroys
the fishing fleet, and the threat of war again looms over Japan.
As Guy Tucker points out, “Just as the Cold War had followed the Second
World War, and just as the specter of worldwide nuclear destruction had
haunted the world in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Godzilla remains
a force to be reckoned with.” However, unlike the first film, Godzilla
is no longer a threat to Japan and he becomes the hunted instead of the
hunter. Military forces track Godzilla and he is eventually trapped
and attacked on Shinko Island, representing Japan’s determination to never
again suffer the horrors of atomic devastation. This determination
is never more evident than at the end of the film, when it is revealed that
Kobayashi is in love with Hidemi. Her betrothal to Tsukioka sets up
another love triangle as in Gojira
, but this triangle is never given
the chance to develop. As naval forces approach the island with the
intention to destroy Godzilla, Kobayashi sacrifices himself, kamikaze style,
in an attempt to keep Godzilla from leaving the island until the military
arrives. This again marks one of the rare times that a main character and
hero of a Godzilla film dies (thought Dr. Serizawa is the eventual hero of
, his original funtion is more of a supporting role). Witnessing
his friend’s sacrifice, and seeing the effects the falling ice has on Godzilla,
Tsukioka convinces the military forces to bomb the mountain side, causing
an avalanche, and burying Godzilla under tons of ice for all time. Of
interesting note in regards to the continuity within the Godzilla series,
when Godzilla would reappear seven years later in Kingu Kongu tai Gojira
(King Kong vs. Godzilla, 1963), the monster would be seen emerging from
an ice burg floating in Japan's northern sea.
It is the combination of many
unique symbolic and narrative aspects that make Gojira
the best films in the Godzilla series. It is unfortunate
that the American versions of these films lose some of their impact when
compared with the Japanese originals, but if looked at them objectively
the intended premises can still be found.
Abbot & Costello Meet Godzilla
Several companies showed an interest
in releasing Gojira
in the United States after screening of the
film in Los Angeles received rave reviews. Samuel Z. Arkoff, founder
of the company that would become American International Pictures was among
Toho’s suitors. While A.I.P. would eventually release the bulk of
Toho’s Sci/Fi films in the 1960's (including the ever popular Destroy
in 1969), it would be Joseph E. Levine’s Embassy Pictures
would go to. Levine would be one of Hollywood’s
top producers, pioneering the practice of “saturation booking,” opening
a film in as many theaters at once that, no matter how lousy, the film
was bound to make a profit. After sitting on the rights for almost
two years Levine finally got started, using Gojira’s
and the skeleton of its story to put together Godzilla, King of the
(1956). Levine was understandably worried about showing
the Japanese version to American audiences, and thus the concept of an American
“host” for the film became an necessary evil. But when considering
the care that was taken by director Terry Morse to blend the American footage
with the Japanese footage, the changes become insignificant.
It is unfortunate
that what was one of the best installments in the Godzilla series was
completely changed by its American distributor. Released in America
by Warner Brothers four years after its original release date of 1955,
any similarities between the Japanese plot and the America one were purely
accidental. Originally, Godzilla’s Counterattack
to be completely reworked; retaining only the monster scenes, the footage
of Japanese actors was to have been scrapped and replaced with new footage
filmed in America. The new story, titled “The Volcano Monsters,”
involved a volcanic eruption uncovering the bodies of two hibernating dinosaurs.
Discovered by a joint U.S./Japanese science team, the monsters are returned
to the United States only to break free and run amok in San Francisco’s
Chinatown. Plans for this version were in such advanced stages that
Toho even sent new Godzilla and Angilas suits to America for additional
filming. However, as Rodan
(1957) had been released to decent profits
without an American setting, the plans were eventually dropped, and Godzilla’s
was released as Gigantis the Fire Monster
name was apparently changed to Gigantis because warner Brothers did not
know they could use the name Godzilla, thinking that Embassy Pictures, who
released Godzilla, King of the Monsters
in 1956 copyrighted the name).
Unlike Godzilla, King of the
featured no new American scenes, however the
dubbing, along with an added narration, turned the film from a serious look
at the bombing of Nagasaki to Abbott & Costello Meet Godzilla!
Stock footage is tossed into the film; scenes of Japanese commerce, crowd
scenes, people praying, American war propaganda footage (complete with sloppily
censored swastikas!), and animated cartoon graphics of the Imperial Japanese
government’s plans for world conquest (used in the film to illustrate the
military mobilization), pad the film but add nothing. The opening
sequence is a montage of ominously narrated, thrown together A-bomb test footage,
making one expect to see a typical run-of-the-mill 1950's “giant-insect-on-the-loose”
flick. This footage replaces the original opening credits, shown over
a cloud-bank, which included Masaru Sato’s stirring original score.
The worst stock footage used
in the entire film occurs in the early stages where, at the meeting of
military and scientific authorities, Dr. Yamane explains the destruction
wrought on Tokyo by the first (so-called), “Gigantis.” Dr. Yamane
begins a lecture on the creation of the world, “as science has been able
to reconstruct it for you” and the age of the dinosaurs. What follows
is a montage of film clips featuring silly special effects and stock footage
from other movies to explain the birth and evolution of the dreaded “fire-monsters.”
Shots showing men in awful monster suits, real lizards suffering with glued-on
plastic frills, and truly awful stop-motion animated dinosaurs precede
footage of Gigantis destroying Tokyo. If the horrible haphazard “lecture”
does not drive you mad, then Dr. Yamane’s voice will. Sounding fine
in the beginning, he rapidly ends up sounding like Elmer Fudd. In
the Japanese original, only the footage from the first Godzilla film is
shown, with no narration or background music. The grim footage of
Godzilla destroying Tokyo truly speaking for itself. And if the stock
footage was not bad enough, the dubbing should stand as a perfect example
to film students (as well as distributors), on how not to dub a foreign
film! The main character, Tsukioka, narrates every movement in the
smallest detail, while Kobayashi, who is the actual hero of the film, is
reduced to a comic-relief buffoon. The rest of the characters also
suffer, spewing nonsensical dialogue. The best way to illustrate this
point, is to reexamine the the dialogue from the two previously quoted scenes:
As in the Japanese version, after
the conference room scene, the film cuts to a shot of Tsukioka and Hidemi
looking over the skyline of Osaka from the roof of the canning company’s
factory. “I wonder if they will attack?” Hidemi ask. “No, because
if they did Osaka would be a city of ruins by now.” Tsukioka answers. “I've
got to be brave, now that its erie and still.” Hidemi remarks. “What
can anybody do about this now?.” Tsukioka says looking over the city. Hidemi
says smiling, “I'm glad you're here, you're so brave Tsukioka. Absolutely
darling.” Tsukioka laughs, “Ah banana oil! I was desperate and worried
and ansious. I'm not brave at all.” “Sometimes you are,” Hidemi
adds. “You're wrong about that,” Tsukioka corrects her, “you really
think I've got courage.” “Why, don't you?” Hidemi asks, cut off suddenly,
as a squadron of jet fighters passing overhead breaks the eerie silence of
After Gigantis' attack, from the
roof top where Tsukioka and Hidemi contemplated future events just days before,
Hidemi’s father (and company president) Yamaji surveys the destruction with
company vice president Shibashi. “Shibashi, on that small hill top
out there once was our fishing canary,” Yamaji says pointing into the distance.
“Several years of human heart ache.” Shibashi comments. Yamaji turns
towards his vice president and adds “Shibashi, I don't know if you know
this, but I don't intend to quit.” Shibashi smiles, “This is good to
know. When do we begin?” “Right away. I'll go get the tools,”
Yamaji says as the two walk off together.
premise of the two scenes remain the same the dialogue brings up plot points
that were never intended within the original film, especially in regards
to Tsukioka's cowardness. Some of the dubbing actors are real Asians,
like Star Trek’s George Takei, and Chinese-born Keye Luke (who portrayed
Charlie Chan’s Number One Son), while American actors like Paul Frees
poorly fake Japanese accents. Tragically, what was one of the best
installments of the Godzilla series was ruined by Warner Brothers and is
possibly the only film in the entire series that is in dire need of re-dubbing.
Japan and the Bomb in the 21st Century
On December 12, 1999 Toho
Company released the 23rd film in the Godzilla series Gojira 2000 Millennium
Produced by Shogo Tomiyama, directed by Takao Okawara with special effects
created by Kenji Suzuki, the film was not a box office success taking
in less that 9 million dollars nation wide (the film had cost 12 million
to make), making it the lowest grossing Godzilla film in the series history.
Even with the four-year hiatus between Gojira tai Destroyah
and Gojira 2000 Millennium
, Japanese interest in Godzilla has waned.
Dropping the atomic bombs on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War has remained
a heated and controversial debate in the United States to the present
day. Whether the Japanese were about to surrender; whether the Soviet
Union was about to enter the war; all remain good, but academic points
in the 21st century. The bombs were dropped, and Japanese culture
changed forever. On the surface, there is very little sign of pre-war
Japan. American influence has completely embedded itself into every
part of Japanese society. In fact when one travels to Japan, one
is immediately taken with the lack of any sign that Japan suffered from
nuclear attack. In fact there are very little signs that Japan ever lost
the war. The average Japanese citizen drinks Coca-Cola, eats breakfast
at Dunkin Donuts, eats lunch at MacDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, enjoys
American sports such as Baseball and Bowling, and flocks to their local
theaters to watch big-budgeted Hollywood films. There is no sufficient
way to describe the experience of traveling in Japan unless you have actually
experienced it. The best description would be to imagine Times Square
in New York City multiplied by 100.
But if Japanese culture is overly
American on the outside, the old ways of tradition and social structure
retain its hold on Japanese private live, as it had done for hundred of years.
The Japanese are a very private, and a xenophobic people. In their
home life, the old way that the man rules and the women serves continues
to be practiced, as Japanese women are still treated like second class
citizens. The Japanese can also be somewhat racist at times.
One Japanese restaurant chain, selling America style baby-back ribs, portrays
as its store logo a stereotypical “black” face, with white lips, matted
hair and large white eyes.
These attitudes, or fears
of outsiders, extend itself to the Japanese business world. The late
Henry G. Saperstein, president and chief executive officer of UPA Productions,
knew first hand what it was like dealing with the Japanese as a business
partner; he had owned the North American licensing and merchandising rights
to Godzilla since the 1960s. “They were wary of any gajin,” Saperstein
said. “That doesn’t mean foreigner, it means outsider. You’re outside
the ‘kingdom of the sun’ and they’re wary of anyone coming in who wants
to be involved in any meaningful way. Every time I had dealings with
them, it was like we were meeting for the first time.” Because this
xenophobic fear permeates every aspect of Japanese life, discussions on
the atomic bombings are hardly ever discussed with outsiders.
David Milner, Japanese film historian
explains, “The Japanese deal with the subject in a very matter-of-fact
way. It is not talked about in polite society, and even when it is
discussed, it is only within the confines of the facts connected with the
event.” There is no discussion on whether or not the United States
should have used the bomb. There are no discussions on whether or
not Japan bears any blame for the events of the war. It is simply
a matter of examining and stating the facts. This policy even extends
to the way Japanese schools treat the events of the Second World War.
Japanese students are taught about the events, but only within their factual
content in relationship to Japanese history. There is no discussion
or debate on the rightness, or wrongness, of Japan’s position during the
war; or America’s action towards the end of it. To this day Japan
has never accepted blame for the war nor do they acknowledge the brutality
of their actions during the war.
Japanese Pop Culture and the Bomb
Beginning with the lifting
of SCAP restrictions in the 1950s, several films began to address the
issue of the atomic bombings, and films like Keisuke Kinoshita’s Nihon
(A Japanese Tragedy, 1953) and Akira Kurosawa’ Record
of a Living Being
(1955), stand out as fine examples. But the
issue quickly became a controversial subject, and several films and television
episodes produced from the 1950s right through to the present have been
banned because of their treatment of the nuclear issue.
In the 1960s television series
(produced by Godzilla special effects supervisor Eiji
Tsuburaya), the 12th episode, entitled From the Planet with Love
centered on a race of aliens whose world was destroyed by a nuclear war.
There are survivors, but they have been irradiated and are in desperate
need of pure human blood to stay alive. Arriving on Earth, they
begin a plan to steal the human blood they need. Assuming human guise,
the aliens use one of their agents to persuade a woman (played by Horoki
Sakurai) to pass out watches to fellow women, whose blood is perfect for
the alien's needs. These watches drain the woman's blood out of their bodies
(in a crystal form), leaving the women in a death like state. These events
attract the attention of the Ultra-Squad (a government sponsored organization
assigned to investigate strange occurrences) who looks into the situation.
Team member Ann Yuri knows the woman personally, but while she is investigating
the aliens make an important discovery; children's blood is richer than
women's blood. The aliens switch tactics to get children's blood by
means of a little boy (who is the brother of the woman). The alien's
stage a contest for a group of kids, with the prizes being the “blood sucking’
watches. The alien plan would have succeeded if it was not for the intervention
of the Ultra-Guard, who foils the attempt. As a last resort, the
aliens send one of their agents to destroy the Ultra-Guard, but UltraSeven,
along with the help of the women (who discovers her “love’s” true intentions)
destroys the aliens.
It was the radiation story line
that got this episode banned. The episode aired only once and has
never aired again. A group representing radiation victims of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki saw a synopsis of the episode’s story line in one of the many
published Ultra-Monster books. Outraged by what they saw, the organization
protested against the episode's future airings, and as a result, Tsuburaya
Productions banned the episode from it's stable of Ultra sagas. The
story has become so taboo that it is not even listed in any of the official
episode guides, the episode numbers jumping from 11 to 13.
Amazingly, radiation groups in
Japan ban anything that has to do with human mutant deformation usually.
The 1974 Toho film Catastrophe 1999
(released in the United States
as The Last Days of Planet Earth
in 1981) has been banned from
theater and video release. The film, which is loosely based on the
predictions of ,Nostradamus depicts the end of the world by
nuclear war and the mutated survivors that would survive such a conflict.
Interestingly enough, these films and television series are released in
the United States (the banned UltraSeven
episode played on TNT under
the title Crystallized Corpuscles
), making them much sort after
collector’s items in Japan.
Fans of the kaiju genre tend
to be looked down upon or feel embarrassed because of their interest in
the King of the Monsters. While most of Godzilla’s installments after
the 1950s did become increasingly juvenile and silly, the first two films
(in their original Japanese presentations) are serious films which explore
the effects on the Japanese psyche of being the only nation to suffer from
nuclear bombing. And that is a fact no critic or skeptic can diminish.
Unpublished manuscript sources
Haruo Nakajima, Interview (2000) with John Rocco
Ishiro Honda, Interview (1986) with Guy Mariner
David Milner, Interview (2000) with John Rocco Roberto.
Henry G. Saperstein. Interview (1995) with John
Roberto and Guy Tucker.
Primary film sources
; Ishiro Honda, Toho Studios, 1954.
Gojira no Gyakushu
, Motoyohi Oda, Toho Studios,
Godzilla, King of the Monsters
, Terry Morse,
Embassy Pictures, 1956.
Godzilla Raids Again
, Hugo Grimaldi, Warner
Tucker, Guy Mariner. Age of the Gods: A History
of the Japanese Fantasy Film
. Daikaiju Publishing, 1996.
Anderson, Joseph L. & Richie, Donald. Japanese
Film, Art and Industry
. Princeton University Press; 1958.
Mellen, Joan. The Waves At Genji’s Door: Japan
Through Its Cinema
. Pantheon Books, 1976.
Shoemaker, Greg. A History of Daiei
Fantasy Film Journal #12," 1980.
Hirano, Kyoko. Mr. Smith Goes To Tokyo
York University Press, 1993.
Sato, Tadao. Currents in Japanese Cinema
Harper & Row, 1982.
Richie, Donald. The Films of Akira Kurosawa
Berkeley Press, 1982.
Rovin, Jeff. The Encyclopedia of Monsters
Facts On File, 1989.
Godziszewski, Edward. The Illustrated Encyclopedia
. Daikaiju Publishing, 1995.
Galbrath, Stuart. Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy,
and Horror Films
. McFarland Press, 1993.
Kurosawa, Akira. Something Like an Autobiography
Borzoi Books, 1982.
Ragone, August & Tucker, Guy. The Legend
. "Markalite, Vol. 1 number 3," November 1991.
Roberto, John with Biondi, Robert. Godzilla and
the Second World War
. "KAIJU-FAN, Vol. 2," March 1994.
Biondi, Robert & Roberto, John. Godzilla
. "G-FAN, Vol. 1 number 10," July 1994.
Biondi, Robert. Godzilla: A Film Book
Vol. 1 number 12," November 1994.
Roberto, John. Godzilla: A Commentary
Vol. 1 number 12," November 1994
Godziszewski, Edward. The Making of Godzilla
"G-FAN, Vol. 1 number 12," November 1994.
Marrero, Robert. Godzilla: An Illustrated Guide
To Japanese Monster Movies
. Fantasma Books, 1996.
Kishikawa, Osamu. Godzilla First: 1954-1955
Dai Nippon Press, 1994.
Ryfle, Steven. Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star
ECW Press, 1998.
Cerasini, Mark & Lees, J.D. The Official
. Random House,1998.
Godzilla In America:
Godzilla, King of the Monsters
Godzilla In America:
Godzilla Raids Again
and the Second World War
Post War Japan
Haruo Nakajima Interview
Henry G. Saperstein Interview
Special thanks to Professors Catherine Lavender and David Traboulay.
Essay © 2000, 2003 John Rocco Roberto/Visagraph