What the Podcast Taught Me about Japan

by Nathan Marchand

Image by geralt. Courtesy of www.Pixabay.com.

Many listeners have told Brian and I that the podcast has been educational for them. Not only did they learn things about Godzilla films they didn’t know, but they also learned much about Japan (which is just as important). It was a goal we set early in our planning process, and I’m happy to see that we’ve succeeded. It’s one of the things that sets us apart from other Godzilla/kaiju podcasts.

However, listeners weren’t the only ones who learned new things—I did as well.

That might seem like an unusual thing to admit. I’m podcasting about this, after all, which makes me something of an expert, right? In many regards, that’s true. I’ve been a Godzilla fan since I was a teen, and I’ve absorbed a lot of knowledge about the franchise over the years. But in researching for Kaijuvision Radio, I feel like I’ve more than doubled my knowledge about these films.

One of my favorite “discoveries” was learning about screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa. Being a writer myself, I normally pay attention to screenwriter credits in films, but I never bothered to look up anything about him. I wish there was more information on him because he’s easily the most underappreciated member of Toho’s Showa era creative team. That’s why we take every opportunity to mention Sekizawa and the huge contributions he made to the franchise. He really did help make Godzilla the kaiju the fandom knows and loves.

More importantly, though, I learned much about the country that created Godzilla: Japan. Before this podcast, much of what I knew about the country was part of “Cool Japan.” I grew up watching G-films and anime and playing Japanese video games, among the country’s other exports. I learned things about the “real” Japan, but I still only knew the country in a pedestrian sort of way.

Now thanks to Brian and my research, I’ve become acquainted with the Japanese national spirit, which is one of the trademark subjects of our podcast. I’d heard a few things related to Japanese history—the Meiji Restoration, WWII, the Occupation, etc.—but not in detail. Things like the Japanese Economic Miracle, the Lost Decade, and the Yasukuni Shrine I didn’t know. One of the most eye-opening shows for me was episode 19 (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) when I dove deep into the rabbit hole that is Okinawa. If I once knew the island had been returned to Japan in the early 1970s, I’d forgotten, so I didn’t realize Toho made that Godzilla film for a people with a long history of animosity toward the mainland. It gave greater significance to a movie that’d long been just a fun romp.

It wasn’t just that film, though. The entire franchise has been enhanced by my new knowledge. Kaijuvision Radio is a film appreciation podcast, and part of that is understanding the original context for a movie’s creation. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I, like most people, am separated by time and culture with these films. I needed to be educated in order to more fully appreciate them. Without that, I was missing part of the story. How was I to know that the Xiliens were an expression of how the Japanese felt about foreigners? (See episode 11 for all the details). To me it was just a cool alien invasion film. Now it’s much, much more. Even something as recent as Shin Godzilla (episode 37) I wouldn’t have understood nearly as much if not for everything I’d learned in planning the podcast.

So, listeners, what was the most educational episode of Kaijuvision Radio for you? What did you learn from us that you didn’t know before?

If you’d like to help us continue creating podcasts that are both entertaining and enlightening, please support us on Patreon. We just added a new membership level with some great rewards, so don’t miss out!

The Speed and Efficiency of Content Release in Season 1

By Brian Scherschel

Nate and I are creating wholly original content: Original structure, original thoughts, original opinions, original videos, original music, original art, and an original approach. We utilized our innate strengths and experiences, and after two years of planning, Kaijuvision Radio was born.

We’re fast and efficient.

We covered the entire Godzilla franchise in just 8½ months, releasing 37 weekly episodes in a row, each one with a scenic background video. The grand total came to over 50 hours of content. No one has ever done this. But it wasn’t exhausting – it was exhilarating!

Moreover, we paid attention to what we were doing the entire time.

After all, speed is nothing if you aren’t doing it right. We created our part one film descriptions in order to properly introduce the movies and compare them to each other. We structured our discussions to avoid rambling. Most importantly, we defined the goals of the podcast so clearly that they became second nature: Raise the bar of the conversation about the movies, analyze Japanese historical and cultural inputs, embrace how Godzilla changes over time, and track relevant Japanese issues as we progress. Through this unique approach, we were able to demonstrate that there’s so much more to Godzilla than meets the eye in an informative and entertaining way.

The kaiju fandom is a small yet very special group. We have met some amazing people, and our patrons have been superb. We are thankful for all of their assistance.

Our panel at G-Fest will be recorded as an episode to be released in July. Then we will continue our film journey in September, with one movie episode per month plus more interesting content in store. If you like what we’re doing, check out our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/kaijuvision.

We have a $1, $5, $10, and now a $25 tier introduced today. We have our official Kaijuvision Radio t-shirt, and our new official coffee mug.

Kaiju Lover ($1/month) gets you our undying thanks and access to exclusive behind-the-scenes content, including our G-Fest activities and progress reports on our work.

Kaiju Commander ($5/month) gets you the previous tier’s rewards plus a monthly shout-out in an episode and listing on our episode descriptions.

Kaiju Visionary ($10/month) gets you the previous tier’s rewards plus our official Kaijuvision Radio t-shirt after 4 straight months.

Our new reward tier introduced today is:

Kaiju Connoisseur ($25/month) gets you the t-shirt and our official Kaijuvision Radio mug after 3 straight months.

Donations go towards the merchandise, advertising, equipment, website, and data transfer fees that keep our podcast running.

To really see what we’re made of, we strongly recommend Episode 37, our Shin Godzilla episode. We hope it will change the way the fandom discusses this incredible movie.

We’d like to send a shout-out to our patrons Kyoei Toshi and Sean Stiff for pledging at the Kaiju Visionary level. Thank you for your support! We really appreciate it.

Regarding Our Groundbreaking Shin Godzilla Episode

By Brian Scherschel

Some reviews so far about our revolutionary Shin Godzilla episode:

Kyoei Toshi (one of our Patrons) (via Twitter): “Not only the best examination of Shin in English, but the single best podcast episode dealing with Godzilla ever done. These guys have done an incredible amount of preparation and research for their series on the Godzilla films, and it shows in the finished product. Well done!”

Geek Devotions (via Facebook): “Check out Kaijuvision Radio’s review of ‘Shin Godzilla’. It’s probably the most comprehensive and informative discussion on the film that we’ve had the opportunity to listen to. These guys did a great job breaking down the film!”

Ben Avery (host of the podcasts Strangers and Alien & Welcome to Level Seven): “Great job with ‘Shin Godzilla’. I did find it interesting that you seemed to be arguing with invisible people who didn’t like it. I kept saying, ‘I know! I agree!’ I’m just not part of the online fandom. Whenever you talked about fan response I found it very interesting.”

We expect this episode to significantly change how Shin Godzilla is discussed in the American fandom.

In our incredible, groundbreaking season finale episode on this film, we challenge some of the conventional wisdom in the American fandom about the movie’s politics. We are of the opinion that this movie is not nationalist propaganda. Patriotic, yes. Nationalistic, no. Militaristic, no.

We wholeheartedly embrace a Godzilla that changes over time, just as it always has. Since Shin Godzilla is about the here and now, we explain the situation Japan is in right now, and the challenges they face. Because of marketing (“Cool Japan”) and the exaggerated power that nostalgia has, we say in plain English just why we’re seeing these political issues in the movie.

Shin Godzilla is not all that different from many other movies in the series. It fits into current events and stays relevant. It helps people work through trauma. It channels the public’s outrage. It expresses the Japanese national spirit. Using only the military fails. There are many more reasons.

If we had received a heavily edited version of Shin Godzilla in America and then had to wait 30+ years for it to be released, fans would have been furious. However, the result of this is that the politics came through completely unfiltered. If we had to wait decades until seeing the political elements of the movie, the political messages would be dulled by the passage of time. This time around, we get the full impact, so it’s natural that some Americans would have a reaction to what they see.

Since Hideki Anno made this movie, and since it deals with complex issues, we should not mistake meditating on issues the same thing as endorsing positions. We don’t endorse any positions either, but we do explain what’s going on in the film with all of these issues. There is also a lot of satire in this movie right up against a lot of realism. We sort all of that out. I explain all of the bureaucratic elements of the movie because it’s such an important part of the movie. We then comprehensively examine the events of 3/11/2011 and its aftermath better than anyone in the Godzilla podcasting community. We link the timeline of the disasters to the events in the film as they unfold.

Anyone who’s in the American Godzilla fandom needs to hear what we have to say in this episode. I have a background in comparative politics and international affairs, and our perspective on the movie from that angle is impressive. It’s totally worth listening to.

You can listen to this amazing episode here.

2018 Fort Wayne Cherry Blossom Festival Recap

by Nathan Marchand

On May 20, Brian and I attended the Fort Wayne Cherry Blossom Festival, a local event that celebrates Japanese culture.  It was held at the main branch of the Allen County Public Library.  It’s essentially a free one-day convention.  This was the event’s 11th year.  As we’ve mentioned before, one of Fort Wayne’s sister cities is Takaoka, so it makes sense to hold a festival each year centered on Japan.  It was my second time at the event and Brian’s first.

As the event’s website proclaims, “Five hours…so little time and so much to do!”  That was definitely true.  We had to choose our activities carefully.

First, we watched a performance by Fort Wayne Taiko.  As explained on their website, “Taiko is a Japanese musical tradition that means ‘big drum.’ The large, hollow, skin-covered drums used in taiko are played vertically, horizontally or diagonally to create a range of vibrant rhythms. But taiko isn’t simply about sound. Its characteristic beat is achieved through choreographed arm movements, as drummers ‘dance’ their sticks from drum to drum.”  They’re the only such group in Fort Wayne and one of the few in the Midwest, which makes them unique in our area.  I love watching them. (Photo below by Nathan Marchand).

Next was the opening ceremony presided over by Fort Wayne’s mayor, Tom Henry, and Consul-General Naoki Ito.  After a quick lunch from some local Japanese restaurants, we watched a performance from the Minyo Club of Indianapolis.  Minyo is a style of Japanese folk music and dance originally practiced by people as they worked.

Minyo Club of Indianapolis.  (Photo by Brian Scherschel)

Next was one of the highlights of the day: the planting of a cherry blossom tree.  Consul-General Ito brought five that were to be planted all over the city, including one in front of the library.  Both he and Mayor Henry broke ground with shovels and Laura Stine of Laura Stine Gardens planted it.  (Photo below by Nathan Marchand).

Afterward, we had the privilege of meeting Ito-san and telling him about our podcast.  He seemed impressed with our work and told us to keep it up.  It was also one of the few times I’ve seen Brian starstruck, and it was for a Japanese diplomat! (Which, honestly, isn’t surprising if you know Brian).

Brian (left) with Ito and me (right) with Ito.  (Left photo by Nathan Marchand, right photo by Brian Scherschel)

We next saw Heartland Sings, a local vocal group, perform acapella versions of several video game and J-pop songs.  My favorite was their Super Mario Bros. medley.  Interestingly, they went from the festival to a local church to perform liturgical songs. (Photo below by Nathan Marchand).

After mingling with the vendors, we attended an event Brian wanted to make sure we didn’t miss: the tea ceremony.  This is a tradition that goes back centuries and involves the ceremonial preparation and presentation of a powdered green tea called matcha.  We were able to watch a condensed version of the ceremony while a young woman, who was a student of tea master, explained everything.  It was fascinating to watch.

The Japanese tea ceremony.  (Photo by Brian Scherschel)

Then we saw a martial arts demonstration by the Indianapolis Kendo Club.  I’ve long been interested in martial arts, so I always make sure to watch demonstrations like this.  I was surprised at how noisy kendo is, but even that has the purpose of releasing the practitioner’s energy.  The most thought-provoking thing I learned was that a strike in kendo is only to illustrate that the practitioner has already won the fight. (Photo below by Nathan Marchand).

Brian left after that, but I stuck around for the cosplay contest.  This featured a parade of anime and video characters.  The top three consisted of two Pokemon characters and a female rendition of the dragon Shenron from DragonBall. (Photo below by Nathan Marchand).

Overall, it was a fun and educational experience.  Not unlike our podcast!