SDCC 2019: Godzilla at 65

While SDCC celebrated 50 years,  Showa-era Godzilla just turned 65 and Toho celebrated its most successful character officially becoming a senior citizen by making its first visit to San Diego with a modest booth that included a live artist, props from the movies and a chance to go green screen for a movie short with Godzilla.

Akito Takahashi, head of project management for the Toho Company, noted that with SDCC celebrating its 50th anniversary the same year Hollywood had a blockbuster Godzilla movie with another coming out next year and because it was a major anniversary for Godzilla, it seems like the ideal time for Toho to make its first trip to SDCC. Yet the “Hollywood” Godzilla is just one of three alternative realities for Godzilla seen in the last decade: “Shin Godzilla,” the three Japanese animated features and the “Hollywood” version of Godzilla.

“Shin Godzilla” (literally “New Godzilla”) or “Godzilla: Resurgence” was a 2016 Japanese kaiju film that drew inspiration from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami just as the original Godzilla was influenced by the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the 1954 contamination by nuclear fallout of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon 5)  that resulted from the US nuclear weapons testing at the Bikini Atoll.

The animated-feature trilogy began with  the 2017 “Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.” Written by Gen Urobuchi and produced by Toho Animation and Polygon Pictures in association with Netflix, the movie is about a group of human refugees who were forced to abandon the Earth, even after two alien groups, the Exif and the Bilusaludo, offered their assistance fighting Godzilla. Godzilla has eliminated all the other giant monsters and the Bilusaludo’s creation, Mechagodzilla, had failed to defeat Godzilla. Now 20,000 years later, a group of humans led by Captain Haruo Sakaki along with Exif and Bilusaludo refugees attempt to return to Earth. In the 2018 “Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle,” Haruo survives an attack by Godzilla and is rescued by a woman named Miana. She and her twin sister are descendants of humans who remained on Earth and survived. An attempt to use Mechagodzilla divides the refugees and Godzilla still prevails. In the 2018 “Godzilla: The Planet Eater,” Haruo is faced with some hard choices, including bringing Ghidorah to Earth and whether to choose Ghidorah or Godzilla. Currently all three movies are streaming on Netflix.

US audiences will be more familiar with the 2014 American movie “Godzilla” that had people caught between Godzilla and two monsters known as MUTO. Its sequel, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” was released this year and will be followed by “Godzilla vs. Kong” in 2020.

Through an interpreter, Aska Naito, Takahashi said, “We really welcome the differentiations in types of Godzilla. That is how we can continue to widen our fan base.” All three of them give a different angle of “how we can love Godzilla more.” The three animated movies that were theatrically released in Japan are a timeline that has ended. There may be a “new Godzilla in the animation world,” but that would be yet another version of Godzilla and not one related to the Gen Urobuchi trilogy.

For projects presented to Toho, Takahashi said that “whatever Godzilla represents for each person is different.”  What the company wants in a project is “these really good human characters that emphasize human resilience.”

While “Shin Godzilla” may not have reached as many fans as the Hollywood version, Takahashi noted that “for Japanese fans, ‘Shin Godzilla’ is really, really popular.” More interesting, while men were fans of the original Godzilla, “Shin Godzilla” attracted female fans, including teenagers, and that made Toho “very excited by this new direction.”  That means there is a possibility that Shin Godzilla will return although there’s nothing concrete that Takahashi could discuss.

The old style of Godzilla is popular enough that there are six Godzilla View Rooms at the Hotel Gracery in Shinjuku for ¥13,000 to ¥21,650 ($120.19 to $200.15) and there’s a Godzilla Cake Set at the Cafe Terrace Bonjour on the eighth floor of Hotel Gracery for ¥2,138 ($19.77)  There’s also the pricier Godzilla Room where you can have private time with the big G and that runs from ¥49,800 to ¥59,800 ($460.40 to $552.85).

Bandai had carried a 60th anniversary exclusive for SDCC five years ago and this year, Toho and Bandai had a model of the 1954 Godzilla as an SDCC exclusive. With a limited supply each day beginning on Wednesday, the store quickly sold out within the first hour. There’s a possibility that Toho will be back at SDCC next year because Takahashi said, “To have these connections and contacts with the fans have been immensely exciting.”

 

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