January 01, 2007

Know Your Japanese Movie Monsters, Part 1 - Gamera

Destroy All Planets will make you go “Man! And I’m not even stoned!” which is always the hallmark of an enjoyable bad movie night.
- Sci Fi Movie Page

Everyone knows who Godzilla is, but outside of Japan and a small but devoted group of fans, not many people know who the various monsters are that populate the Japanese Monster Movie universe.

Destroy All Planets will make you go “Man! And I’m not even stoned!” which is always the hallmark of an enjoyable bad movie night.
- Sci Fi Movie Page

I can't think of a better starting point than Gamera. Friend to man, protector of the planet, he's been called Guardian of the Universe (amongst other things, keep reading).

Illustration by Mark Jones, 1996

He's easy to identify (besides being giant, I mean). Gamera is an overachieving turtle with a spiky carapace and two enormous upward pointing tusks. To get around he can draw in his arms and legs and shoot jet flames from the openings, making him spin around like a top as he flies. Physically, he mostly relies on brute force to defeat other monsters, preferring to fly around and bludgeon them. He's crafty and will use wits and guile to win his battles. Being a monster though, he's not above biting and clawing or using his dagger-like elbow spikes to punch holes in the hide of his enemies (great big, deep holes that gush oddly-colored watery blood). Gamera can also shoot fire out of his mouth, but doesn't use that weapon very often.

Young children who are central to the story are almost universal in Japanese monster movies. Fans have collectively dubbed these characters "Kenny".

One disturbing thing about Gamera is his... er, fondness for young boys. Every movie must have one or two youngsters (preferably chubby) who become the human focus of the story. Kidnap the kids and you might control Gamera for a while, but for certain you will piss him off. This trait of Gamera led one reviewer to describe him as "the Michael Jackson of Japanese movie monsters".

Gamera has appeared in at least eleven movies, doing his share of stomping Tokyo, but mostly he's the good guy. These are typical Japanese monster movies, full of crappy dubbing, goofy stories full of illogical plot twists, and cheesy special effects. If you enjoy the genre, you'll love these.

File this under "Big Surprise": In one movie the UN unilaterally surrenders the entire planet to the aliens to save the lives of two hostage boy scouts.

The Shrine of Gamera is a pretty good place to find out about all things Gamera.

Posted by: Ted at 10:58 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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1 Once, some friends and I were playing NTN trivia in a bar in Columbus. We used Japanese monster movie monster names for our team name. We cycled through Godzilla, Gamera, Gidra, Mechagodzilla, etc.

But the fun thing was, since we were winning so handily, we changed our team name just as the round ended, so that when the screen posted the winning team's name, it read:

"Not You"

Then, we'd change back to another monster name. Really pissed off the other contestants.

Posted by: Buckethead at January 02, 2007 10:13 PM (t84LF)

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