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Godzilla vs. Gigan

Godzilla vs. Gigan

Chikyu Kogeki Meirei Gojira tai Gaigan / Godzilla on Monster Island

Jun Fukuda

Japan, 1972

Credits

Review by David Carter

Posted on 12 February 2013

Source DVD

Categories The Compleat Godzilla

One prominent aspect of Japanese pop culture that has not been imported to the West is the nation’s affinity for its brand of professional wrestling. Much like Mexican lucha libre, Japanese professional wrestling is distinct from its American counterpart, yet it eliminates the pageantry associated with the uniquely garish lucha libre. The Japanese variation, also known as puroresu, emphasizes athleticism and – to a certain degree – violence, and is distinguished by its use of full-contact striking and authentic, rather than simulated, submission holds.

This information is germane to any discussion of the Godzilla franchise because the structure of the two is the same. Godzilla, our hero, is challenged by a competitor who, through displays of destruction, is shown to be equal to or more powerful. A fierce battle ensues wherein Godzilla is defeated or nearly defeated, after which he mounts a comeback, narrowly defeating his foe through sheer force of will. This template could be applied to any of the Godzilla films and, indeed, any of the most renowned puroresu competitions.

From the mid-sixties forward, Godzilla’s primary foe was King Ghidorah, the three-headed dragon from outer space. Ghidorah appears (either in the narrative or in stock footage) in a majority of the Showa and Heisei era films after his 1964 introduction and was conspicuous for being the only of Godzilla’s foes not to be “converted” to a good guy after his defeat. In 1972, the Godzilla/Ghidorah match up had occurred three times, and to keep the series fresh it was necessary to introduce a new villain that surpassed the threat of Ghidorah. The result: Godzilla vs. Gigan.

The Godzilla films aren’t known for narrative clarity, and Godzilla vs. Gigan features an especially convoluted plot. At the urging of his overbearing girlfriend, out-of-work manga artist Gengo takes a position with World Children’s Land, a Godzilla-themed amusement park dedicated to world peace. Gengo is nearly trampled on his first day by an escaping industrial spy and, later, another run-in with the spy entangles him in her plans to find out what the company is truly doing. Gengo and his new friends eventually learn that World Children’s Land plans on achieving world peace through world destruction via the giant space monsters King Ghidorah and Gigan, and that the company’s two directors are actually super intelligent cockroaches. Godzilla learns of their plan by soliciting Anguirus to spy on them, and travels from Monster Island to meet his old foe and the deadly new challenger.

Gigan was a more formidable foe than Godzilla had faced previously and was certainly the most visually interesting. Part-cyborg, part-monster, Gigan resembles a cyclopean double-beaked bird with metallic hooks for hands and a buzz saw-like row of spikes down his midsection. Gigan was also the first monster to make Godzilla bleed (in scenes that were trimmed from the American release of the film). Ghidorah is a non-entity in their battle, further establishing Gigan as his successor to the position of Godzilla’s nemesis.

A pivotal film in the Godzilla canon, Godzilla vs. Gigan revived a franchise that was increasingly relying on stock footage post-Destroy All Monsters! Gigan was the first monster in nearly a decade to pose a true challenge to our hero, and in this film we see the narrative focus shift from metropolitan destruction to monster-vs.-monster battles. Lastly, Godzilla vs. Gigan established the precedent of having Godzilla face off against a technological – rather than biological – threat, and the films would follow his pattern for the remainder of Heisei period in the 1990s.

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