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Yamazaki Takashi’s『ゴジラ-1.0』[Gojira Mainasu Wan]

ゴジラ-1.0 [Gojira Mainasu Wan]

ゴジラ-1.0 [Gojira Mainasu Wan]

ゴジラ-1.0 [Gojira Mainasu Wan], Japan 2023. Directed and written by Yamazaki Takashi.

Bambi Theater 2, Row 1, Seat 5. Original version with German subs.

(This post also appears, in two parts and slightly different form and without the amendments, at my Instagram account betweendrafts.)

Let’s get out of the way first where this movie is located within the Tōhō franchise. (Non-Japanese Godzilla movies are not considered part of it, be it Gareth Edwards’s MonsterVerse “Monarch” Godzilla from 2014, which I liked, or Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla from 1998, which had a terrific soundtrack but was otherwise a burning train wreck in search of a cliff.)

Gojira Mainasu Wan is Tōhō’s 33rd Gojira movie overall, and its fifth since the franchise’s third reboot in 2016, together with シン・ゴジラ [Shin Gojira] and an anime trilogy. In Japan, these five movies simply belong to the so-called “2010–” era, which follows the franchise’s “Millennium Era” (1999–2003). The franchise’s English Wikipedia entry, however, repeated by countless fan sites, claims that Tōhō considers these five movies to be part of Tōhō’s “Reiwa era,” which is curious—Reiwa began in 2019, not 2010; I can’t find any Japanese source for that; and the English language source cited by Wikipedia just calls it that without explanation (and is entirely unsuited to be cited as a serious source in the first place). Thus, go figure. I think it’s nonsense, and you can happily quote me on that. (By the way, the English Wikipedia’s Godzilla Minus One entry also gets several details wrong about the movie.)

Within the franchise’s 2010– era, in turn, Gojira Mainasu Wan is itself a reboot, not a continuation from Shin Gojira. Also, it’s the earliest encounter with Gojira in the entire franchise, toward and after the end of the Second World War in 1945–47.

And, it’s fantastic. It’s one the best entries in the franchise. While it features incredible amounts of destruction, it is character-driven throughout, with terrific and intense performances by a great cast and a tight thematic structure that encompasses motifs like war trauma, survivor’s guilt, the individual failing in their duties, and the state failing its people. Satō Naoki’s score is brilliant already, and when the destruction gets going, pieces kick in from Ifukube Akira’s early Gojira scores, and the effect—at least for me—is like being punched in the gut by the creature. But there are also stretches without any music at all, particularly during the movie’s many human moments. Both the sound design and sound effects by foley artist Inoue Natsuko are off the charts. Shibasaki Kōzō and Yamazaki Takashi’s cinematography is outstanding, particularly in their use of color moods, and so are Shibuya Kiyoko’s visual effects. And not only is the creature itself terrifying; as Hannah Rose put it in her superb full review at CBR, the deaths and even the mass deaths it inflicts are always treated seriously and never as “disposable monster fodder.”

I remember watching many of the old Gojira movies in my early teens in the shadiest theaters imaginable, cheek-to-cheek with adult theaters. And like the latter, the Gojira movies—sometimes with subtitles, sometimes without, nobody seemed to care really—were played on a loop without standard showtimes. I was certainly too young for this, but no one ever asked for my ID or anything (and I think there was a reason for that, but not of the kind I want to go into here).

In closing, two remarks.

First, how to pronounce “Gojira?” The stress (kind of) is on the first syllable, that’s clear, regularly with a short “ó” (ゴ) like “pot” in British English or “der Pott” in German. But several actors pronounce it with a longer “ō” (ゴー), approaching two-syllable length, like “I must gō alōne” in Scottish English or “der Tōn” in German. (General American English has neither sound, sorry about that!) Thus, it’s a bit fuzzy.

Finally, the German subtitle set this theatrical version came with was the best I’ve seen in years. It very much knew what it was doing, brought the nuances across, always found the mot juste, and never went on splanation sprees.

Amendment
While Tōhō’s 1972 地球攻撃命令 ゴジラ対ガイガン (U.S.: Godzilla vs. Gigan) is entertaining, it’s also a bit silly, including Gojira and Angirasu’s speech bubble convos 🙄. But the main theme Ifukube Akira wrote for it is my favorite track from the entire franchise.


Godzilla vs. Gigan Uncut Opening

Amendment II
Leah Schnelbach just published her review at tor.com, and it’s great (mild spoilers).

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