King of the monsters has universal appeal

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Kouhei Nomura published a glossary titled “The Godzilla Encyclopedia” in 2004 after six months of dedicated research. He delivers his verdict on why the king of the monsters is so popular worldwide.


 

Do you have a favorite “Godzilla” movie?

The original “Godzilla” that was released in 1954 remains in a class of its own. There is something in the air throughout the film I can’t put my finger on, and there is also a strong anti-nuclear message. I’ve seen it dozens of times but I’ve never grown tired of it. However, it’s important to note that the version that was released in the United States was heavily edited. The U.S. version (titled “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!”) includes new footage featuring actor Raymond Burr, who plays an American journalist in Japan. The plot is basically the same, but the path Godzilla takes is a bit absurd, because he goes from Ginza to the National Diet, and then back to Ginza and so on.

What was the first “Godzilla” movie you saw?

“King Kong vs. Godzilla,” which was released by Toho Studios in 1962. That was also the first movie I ever saw in a theater. It was both scary and powerful at the same time. And there was also a hint of comedy in the story line, which I enjoyed. While the original “Godzilla” was great, I also like watching the films in which Godzilla battles a rival monster.

Godzilla has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In your opinion, why does the monster have universal appeal?

Personally I think it’s a combination of the film’s human drama and the powerful images. I think fans overseas were impressed by the special effects, which at the time were groundbreaking. Years later, Godzilla became closely linked with Japan and, ultimately, was considered to be a symbol of the country’s pop culture.

A reboot of “Godzilla” is coming out in the U.S. this year. What is your take on Hollywood remakes of “Godzilla?”

“Godzilla” movies made in the United States are not “Godzilla” movies, they are just movies about a gargantuan living creature. The very idea of Godzilla is different. In the United States, Godzilla is something that can be overcome with military weapons, but that isn’t necessarily the case in Japanese versions. Over here, Godzilla is more than just a giant creature. It’s in some way a metaphor for natural disaster. It can’t simply be beaten. Godzilla is more than a monster, it’s a symbol. However, don’t get me wrong. I will definitely see the new “Godzilla” movie in theaters, in the same way that I watched the Roland Emmerich version (in 1998).

Godzilla is a sexagenarian. What do you think will happen to him next?

After “Godzilla: Final Wars” (2004), Toho Studios announced they had decided to pull the plug on the series, presumably because of the increasing costs. However, the popular “Always Zoku Sanchome no Yuhi” (“Always: Sunset on Third Street 2″) film that was released in 2007 opened with footage of Godzilla destroying Tokyo [one of the characters in the movie was imagining this]. It shows there is still demand for Godzilla in Japan. Circumstances might not be right to film a sequel now, but I am hoping Toho surprises us and puts out a new movie. That would be awesome.