The monster I learned to love
If you ask me about my childhood, chances are that you’d end up listening to me talking about Godzilla. No wonder, I guess that “Godzilla versus King Guidorah” (1991) is my most watched movie until today. I remember that before buying the VHS version, the owner of the local VHS rental store used to ask me “Besides Godzilla, which movie would you like today?” Even more impressive, the first game I’ve finished was Godzilla Trading Card Battle for the Playstation, a game in which everything besides the title was in Japanese. And FYI, I only started studying Japanese last year.
Who could have imagined that when producer Tomoyuki Tanaka convinced the guys at Toho Films to invest in a low budget monster film he was creating one of the most iconic Japanese characters of all time? The final plot of the first movie “Godzilla” (ゴジラ in Japanese), approved by director Inoshiro Honda, was rather similar to the American movie “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”: a monster created by an atomic test that begins to wreak havoc in a metropolis (Tokyo and New York respectively). Besides, the high cost of special effects would make it difficult to make the movie as popular as its American counterpart.
Summarizing, it would be hard to believe that “Godzilla” would be a revolutionary movie. So, how did Godzilla become a success? Well, having a bold producer and a dedicated director really helped. Nonetheless, if it weren’t for the special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya’s brilliant idea of using people in rubber monster suits and then slowing the filming in order to make everything more realistic, Godzilla would be nothing but yet another monster movie of the 1950’s.
Since the release of “Godzilla” in 1954, there was a boom of kaiju eiga (怪獣映画, literally monster movies) in Japan. Solely the Godzilla franchise rendered 28 films from 1954 to 2004. During the movies Godzilla was portrayed sometimes as a defender of Earth and sometimes as an uncontrollable force of nature, but either hero-or-villain, the giant monster made its way into the hearts of millions, including myself. As I remember watching the movies since I was 4, you could say the King of the Monsters was my first contact with Japan and, indeed, I do think that it was Godzilla that made me watch other tokusatsu series such as Ultraman Tiga and Jaspion
Godzilla won the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996 and was granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November 29 2004, exactly 50 years after the Japanese release of its first movie.
Now that I think of it, I’m much of a weirdo, since while most children were simply afraid of monsters, I found it amusing to watch monster movies. ^^;; That being said I don’t know if you’ll take my advice, but even so, here it goes: give Godzilla a chance. I know some of the movies are quite old and that some special effects are nothing compared those we have nowadays, but who knows? Maybe Godzilla makes its way into your heart, and not through your home. 😄
If you want to know more about Godzilla, check WikiZilla. They have plenty of information there but be careful, they do not warn you of spoilers, and there’s quite a few of them in the articles.
*A small note: the 1998 American Godzilla is not considered part of the series. Actually, the Godzilla fandom sees that movie very negatively. He’s been called “Zilla” by Toho and has appeared in the last movie “Godzilla Final Wars” (2004), being easily defeated by the original Godzilla.
Update: The suit created by Eiji Tsuburaya was the first of its kind and was later called “Suitmation” (スーツメーション). The latest movie to use it was “Where the Wild Things Are” (2009).