G-Fest XXV (2018) Panel: Godzilla and the Japanese National Spirit

As promised, here’s the audio and video of our G-Fest Conference panel, which took place at 3:00pm (CDT) on July 13, 2018 at the Crowne Plaza O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. We had a larger-than-expected turnout, including several attendees who were listeners and a university professor who was impressed with our presentation. If he was amazed, we know you’ll be, too!

In this, we discuss Godzilla (1954), The Return of Godzilla (1984), Shin Godzilla (2016), and Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), and the international relations issues that were surrounding them when they were made.

We introduce ourselves, the podcast, and its mission. Then Nate examines the 1954 and 1984 movies with respect to the JSDF, the US-Japan Alliance, and Japanese domestic issues. Brian then updates the audience on what has happened in Japan and the world between 1984 and 2016. Nate examines the 2016 movie across the same issues. Brian analyzes Godzilla vs. Gigan and all that the movie communicates to the audience about globalization. Brian finishes the panel by mentioning what all will happen to Japan in 2019 and 2020, and gives a spirited case for defending democracy.

MP3:

 

Kaijuvision Radio Published in Nippon Quarterly – Fort Wayne’s Japanese Language Newsletter

by Brian Scherschel

As you know, Kaijuvision is headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  The local Japanese language newsletter in town is called the “Nippon Quarterly”, and they published Brian’s description of our podcast – AND they translated it into Japanese!

The Nippon Quarterly’s motto is “Everything Japanese in the Fort Wayne Area”, and is edited by Michele Yamanaka.  The newsletter is sponsored by the Japanese-American Association of Indiana, Inc. (JASI), a 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in 1988.  The JASI also sponsors the yearly Cherry Blossom Festival in Fort Wayne, which Nate and I visited this summer.

You can learn more about the JASI and their mission here: https://www.facebook.com/pg/japanindiana/about/?ref=page_internal

One of Kaijuvision’s goals is promoting cultural understanding between the United States and Japan, one of our most important allies in East Asia and the world.  Yes, our podcast is about kaiju and other Japanese movies, but as our listeners know, we do so much more than that.

And the newsletter page looks so nice!

 

 

Sneak Preview for Our G-Fest XXV Panel

by Nathan Marchand

Hello, G-Fans and kaiju lovers!

Are you a longtime listener who wants a refresher on what Brian and I will be discussing at our G-Fest XXV panel? Or are you visiting our website for the first time after attending our panel? (If so, welcome to our little corner of Monster Island!) This blog is for all of you!

Our panel, “Godzilla and the Japanese National Spirit,” will be in the Kennedy Room at the Grand Plaza Hotel Friday, July 13, at 3pm (CST). The Japanese national spirit is a hallmark topic of our show and one of the things that separates us from other kaiju podcasts. The panel will distill much of what we’ve discussed in several episodes into a 40-minute presentation. However, if you’d like to get more details on the subjects we cover, here are the episodes we recommend you binge-listen during your trip to and/or from G-Fest this year.

Episode 1: Introduction to the Godzilla Journey

A journey of 37 weekly episodes begins with one small step. In our first episode, we introduce ourselves and explain our philosophy for the podcast as we move ahead. The basic groundwork is laid here.

Episode 3: Gojira (1954)

There’s a lot to cover in the first film, so we had to split it into two episodes. In this one, we discuss the original masterpiece, focusing on the political and historical references and cultural significance. For the related topic, we explain the basics of the U.S. Occupation of Japan and how it changed the nation.

Episode 4: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)

Appropriately, we discuss the negative aspects of the Occupation—such as the War Crimes Tribunal—and how it affected U.S.-Japan relations in our episode on the Americanized version of the original film. These aren’t easy things to talk about, but they are important to know to understand the context in which Godzilla was created.

Episode 17: Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Not only is this one of Brian’s favorite G-films, it’s arguably one of the most underestimated entries in the franchise. While created at a time when the Godzilla series was in decline, it’s full of hidden meaning. Beneath the surface careful viewers will see screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa’s meta-commentary on Godzilla as a pop culture icon and, more importantly, a satirical examination of globalization as it related to early 1970s Japan.

Episode 21: The Return of Godzilla (1984)

For this modern classic, we show how Japan found itself in a much different place than in the mid-1950s. This film is entrenched in the Cold War era, depicting a Japan caught between U.S. and Soviet Union as they pressure Japan to allow one of them to nuke Godzilla. Now they must choose between their greatest ally and an immediate threat to the north.

Episode 37: Shin Godzilla (2016)

We can’t say this enough: This is our greatest episode. There’s so much to discuss in this film—especially the misperceptions the American Godzilla fandom has about it. And we still probably didn’t catch everything! The 3-11 Disasters. The JSDF. Japan’s place in the modern world. Americans are separated by time and culture with the previous films and saw them with the benefit of hindsight, but Shin Godzilla came to us quickly and unfiltered. We hope this episode changes how American fans view this film.

This is a great sampler of our podcast. We hope you’ll listen to all of our episodes and continue to listen when season two starts in September.  We’ll be covering classic Toho tokusatsu and new Godzilla films as they’re released.

See you at G-Fest!

Or if you’re reading/listening after the con, thanks for coming!

If you like what we’re doing, please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have some great rewards/benefits!

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.

Episode 37: Shin Godzilla (2016)

At last, it is time. Fasten your seat belts, kaiju fans.  It’s like this movie was made for our show.  Just as we were planning a podcast emphasizing the connection between the Godzilla franchise and international affairs, this masterpiece was delivered to us on a silver platter.  This episode is our masterpiece.  After our film description, part two is our opinion on the big picture of this incredible movie.  Part three is a detailed chronological rundown of the film, and we will tie it to the events of 3/11.  Our related topics are the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdowns.

This episode is dedicated to the victims of the 3/11 disaster, Plant Manager Masao Yoshida, the Fukushima 50, the U.S. service members who participated in Operation Tomodachi, U.S. Forces Japan, and the JSDF.

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

Go to our website next Wednesday (June 6) to learn what we have planned for future episodes.

MP3:

Introduction: 0:00 – 2:42

Part 1 – Film Description: 2:42 – 9:02

Part 2 – Opinion of the Big Picture: 9:02 – 1:04:45

Part 3 – Chronological Rundown: 1:04:45 – 3:10:52

Closing: 3:10:52 – End

 

Co-Hosts: Brian Scherschel and Nathan Marchand

Editor: Brian Scherschel

Video Location: Lincoln Tower and Allen County Courthouse, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Video: Brian Scherschel

Music: Audiophiliac (http://www.fiverr.com/audiophiliac)

Copyright Brian J. Scherschel and Nathan Marchand

All Rights Reserved

3 Weeks Until G-Day: Godzilla DVD/Blu-Ray Guide, Part 2 – Heisei Series, Millennium Series, and Beyond

By Nathan Marchand

(Continued from Part One).

Long before Hollywood rebooted Godzilla (twice), Toho did it three times themselves. These later eras of the franchise are called the Heisei Series (1984-1995) and the Millennium Series (1999-2004). The current era started in 2016 with Shin Godzilla.

Godzilla movies get easier to find on DVD/Blu-Ray with these films since the distribution rights have been owned by fewer companies. Only two of these films were released stateside before 1998 when Tristar released them on home media as a tie-in with the 1998 remake (at least something good came of that, right?)

The Return of Godzilla/Godzilla 1985

Kraken Releasing

This one is complicated. Like with the 1954 Gojira, a heavily-edited “Americanized” version of this 1984 reboot was produced by New World Pictures. It was the only version available commercially in the states for decades. However, thanks to legal entanglements, the American version has only ever been released on VHS. But now thanks to Kraken Releasing, the original Japanese version has been made available. It was so popular, it ranked number one on Amazon’s foreign film sales for a while. The only extras are trailers for Kraken’s other Godzilla Blu-rays.

Buy it here.

Godzilla vs. Biollante

Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

While Godzilla 1985 would remain the only G-film released theatrically in the States for 15 years, Miramax did release this 1989 sequel on HBO and video in 1992. Heck, it’s one of the few widescreen VHS tapes I’ve seen. However, after being out-of-print for years, the film was released on DVD and Blu-Ray a few years ago. It has dual language tracks, widescreen presentation, and a few special features that seem as though they were taken from a Japanese DVD (including a making-of feature). It’s gotten a bit pricey, though.

Buy it here. (Or here with two free Asylum B-movies).

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah/Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) (aka Godzilla and Mothra: Battle for Earth)

Sony Pictures

As tie-ins with Gareth Edwards’ reboot, Sony released nearly a dozen modern G-films on Blu-Ray. These two were packaged together in a two-disc set. Unlike their previous DVD releases, they’re in widescreen and have dual language tracks. Sadly, the only special features included are several of the films’ trailers.

Buy it here.

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II/Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla

Sony Pictures

 

After some oddball DVD editions, Sony released these films on Blu-Ray in 2014 as a two-disc Blu-Ray set. It’s the same as Sony’s other G-film Blu-Rays: widescreen, dual language tracks, and several trailers (including one where clever editing makes it look like Godzilla fights robots from the Toho sci-fi film Gunhed).

Buy it here.

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah/Godzilla vs. Megauirus

Sony Pictures

This is yet another oddity from Sony. This set includes the last film of the Heisei series and the second entry of the Millennium Series. While the pairing makes no sense, it’s an improvement over the previous DVD releases. As usual, the films are in widescreen, have dual language tracks, and include trailers.

Buy it here.

Godzilla 2000 (aka Godzilla 2000: Millennium)

Sony Pictures

Since it was released theatrically, this remains the only Millennium Series film to get a solo Blu-Ray in the U.S. It includes widescreen editions of both the original Japanese version and the slightly re-edited dubbed version of the film (the former being released stateside for the first time with this). The special features are mostly the same as the previous 2000 DVD, including trailers, behind-the-scenes footage, and an informative commentary by the team that dubbed it.

Buy it here.

Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack/Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla

Sony Pictures

The film with the insanely long “retro” title and the first of the popular Kiryu Mechagodzilla films were released together in a Blu-Ray two-pack. Like their previous DVD releases, it features widescreen presentation and dual language tracks. I hear the subtitles for GMK are improved from its DVD. The only special features are a few trailers.

Buy it here.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S./Godzilla: Final Wars

Sony Pictures

The final entries in the Millennium Series were packaged together. Like the 2004 Sony DVDs, it has widescreen presentation and dual language tracks, although the subtitles are transcriptions of the dubbed dialogue (including an instance where there was added dialogue in the dubbing). However, besides a few trailers for other films (including some other Godzilla releases), it features a 22-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that showcases the special effects techniques used in both films. Neither feature music or narration, though, which makes them a bit boring.

Buy it here.

Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla: Resurgence)

Funimation Films

I almost didn’t include this film because it was just released, making it quite easy to find. Honestly, it’s here just for the sake of completeness. The newest Godzilla film was given a limited theatrical run by Funimation Films (which normally distributes anime) in the U.S. last year. They finally put out a Blu-ray and DVD for the film August 1. It has great picture and audio, dual language tracks, and the infamous abundance of subtitles. The only special feature besides some trailers is “Godzilla vs. the Nerds,” a 33-minute interview with some of the Funimation crew that worked on the U.S. release.

Buy it here.

So my guide to collecting Godzilla DVDs and Blu-Rays comes to an end. I hope you found it helpful.

For more detailed reviews of these DVDs and Blu-rays, I highly recommend the website www.TohoKingdom.com. You’ll also find reviews of many of Toho’s other genre films on the site.

Remember, you have three weeks to start watching these films so you can follow along with Brian and I when Kaijuvision Radio launches !

Kaiju, Tourism, and ‘Cool Japan’

By Nathan Marchand

If a kaiju appeared in a city, I bet it’d make you more likely to visit it. Any self-respecting kaiju fan probably would.

Crazy, right?

Well, that’s what the cities of Kita-Kyushu and Shimonoseki in the Yamaguchi Prefecture have been doing for several months. To promote tourism to their cities, they released an online video featuring a kaiju emerging from the Kanmon Straits, which separates the islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Here’s the video:

The bizarre creature is composed of local specialties found in nearby waters, like pufferfish and octopuses, and is supposed to be a reincarnation of the Heikegami, a Japanese crab, which is said to be possessed by the fallen warriors of the Heike clan defeated at the Battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185. (This sounds easily similar to Godzilla’s origin in GMK, doesn’t it?) In other words, it’s packed full of local flavor. (Personally, in distant shots, I think the creature almost looks to have an unmasked Predator face).

The video was originally done in English so as to draw international attention, but it was also subtitled into several other languages.

The creature is humorously defeated by the water current because the Kanmon Straits have one of the fastest tides in the world, with speeds up to 10 knots (about 12 mph). Not only that, but the special effects team that worked on Toho’s latest Godzilla film, Shin Godzilla, created the effects in this promotional short.

While this technically isn’t Godzilla, it’s certainly a byproduct of the longstanding kaiju tradition started by the original 1954 film Gojira. So, these cities are vicariously tapping into Godzilla to promote tourism. It’s also an expression of Japan’s “gross national cool” (or “Cool Japan”). This was a term coined by Douglas McGray in Foreign Policy magazine in 2002. As Japan’s pop culture—J-pop, manga, anime, etc.—has infiltrated other nations and exploded in popularity, it has created an appealing image for its native country while also being quite profitable. The Japanese government has sought to use this “soft power” (indirect influence through cultural or ideological means) for economic growth. To bring it back to the kaiju video, the fact that this short was intended to be seen internationally shows how prominent and widespread the kaiju culture is and how closely it’s tied to “Cool Japan.” In other words, it’s an international cultural touchstone. Godzilla and kaiju still remain relevant.

You can learn more about the short film here.