Two-week news recap, plus G-Fest and SDCC!

There was no news recap last weekend because of G-Fest, which means we’ve got a doozy for this week, especially with SDCC ongoing. First I want to give a quick recap of some of the G-Fest highlights:

  • My two panels went relatively well, the first one was the better of the two (my laptop started, plus I wasn’t sleep-deprived for that one!). Both are up on YouTube now (check episodes 31 and 32 under the “Podcast” tab of this page), so you can get a decent recreation (apologies for some of the audio getting drowned out while clips play). Of course, there was plenty I intended to say but forgot (like how Shin Godzilla uses imagery from The Little Prince and the Eight Headed Dragon, or the Nautilus in Nadia looks like the Moonlight SY3), but generally they hit the big notes. Also, thanks to Kyle at Kaijucast and Matt & Byrd at Kaiju Transmissions for the on-air shout-outs, and everyone reposting links the videos!
  • It was great to see Shinji Higuchi’s talk, especially since, for the sake of comparison, he’s giving a talk at the show in Nagoya this weekend that you had to get lottery tickets a month ago for the *chance* to attend. G-Fest makes it much, much easier. Anyway, he talked a lot about his involvement in Return of Godzilla, gave some anecdotes about Orochi’s Counterattack, and then leapt straight into Shin Godzilla (he only had an hour, he probably needed three).
    He started off by talking about how no American military characters were killed in the movie (I guess he’d heard buzz about the movie being interpreted as anti-American?), but the big bombshell (despite him already mentioning this at Famous Monsters Con in Dallas earlier) was that Toho can’t make Godzilla movies while Legendary has one in development, hence Shin Godzilla getting rushed to a summer 2016 release. (Whether the anime movies are a loophole because they are animated, or because Legendary pushed back their sequel a year remains unclear.) Also, Legendary’s rights expire in 2020, which is some interesting inside-baseball.
  • Kiyotaka Taguchi’s panel was great, especially the two Tetsudon: Kaiju Dream Match shorts he debuted there. He did start the show with an entire episode of Ultraman X, which might have been overboard since it really ate into Q-&-A time, presumably because he didn’t know that the show is simulcast here.

  • I didn’t get to see Yuji Kaida present, but he had a booth in the dealers’ room, so it was great to go up and attempt some compliments in my garbage-level Japanese (Amanda wasn’t able to attend this year). Kaida is a hero, and my first exposure to Ultra Q was actually from looking through his art books.
  • Lots of good finds in Artists’ Alley, including Hiroshi Kanatani’s print of the convention getting destroyed and Matt Frank’s Gamera doujinshi!

  • Kaiju Gaiden is always a good time, but this year had some extra-special treats: screenings of Koichi Kawakita’s final projects (including The God of Clay!), and a trailer for the long-awaited Kaiju Gaiden documentary (which may have a different final English title, it sounds like). A slightly different version of the trailer will be shown at SDCC at 1 today!

  • As always, there were lots of other great panels, and one’s primary problem at G-Fest is picking between them. Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle had a great one on their Ishiro Honda biography (learning that Honda’s in-laws were initially hostile makes a lot of sense considering the recurring theme of women going against family in his films), John Lemay gave an excellent rundown of some of the unmade projects covered in his new book, Tony Isabella talked at length about Marvel and Syfy monsters, Joyce Boss did a riveting presentation on yokai in Japanese culture, the Kaiju Transmissions crew did a bang-up job talking about Gamera vs. Gyaos. Matt Greenfield even showed up and did a presentation on Garo, completely unannounced, and I’m super stoked to see that show finally getting some promotion stateside. I’m sure there are others that I’m forgetting, but it’s a whirlwind of a weekend!

And of course, the real joy of the con is getting to meet and shoot the breeze with fellow fans; hope to see you all next year as well!

And then we get to SDCC, going on right now. Andy’s out at that one, sending a steady feed of info my way!

  • We got a teaser for Pacific Rim: Uprising! It’s certainly a tease; no kaiju in sight.

On that note, the Robot Spirits figures for the film were also on display at the show [pic swiped from Matt Frank]:

  • The third season of Voltron: Legendary Defender is hitting Netflix August 4, but the fourth season is fast to follow in October!

  • Legendary is going out of their way to push Kong: Skull Island, with a large display of Kong bones, among other things. I guess the idea is to keep it fresh in people’s minds, since it’s already out on home video. On a side note, the Monarch Twitter page posted this today:

  • No hints at Leopardon, Kiryu, or Ultraman in this Ready Player One trailer, but it’s promising from what is included. If nothing else, expect an Akira Easter egg…

  • Shout Factory confirmed their release of Gingaman for some time after Megaranger.

  • Hasbro is making an Optimus Prime that the designer says will take 40 minutes to transform. That’s got to test one’s patience, but dang if they’re not putting work into it!
  • Square has a toyline based on Xenogears in the works.

Other news:

  • A full trailer for Albatross’s Red Baron/Silver Mask reimagining BraveStorm has been posted! A teaser went up a few months back and got taken down pretty quickly, but since this one is still up (and it’s due for a fall theatrical run) I guess they sorted out whatever the issue was there. Anyway, it looks awesome; hope it’s made available widely! (On that note, does Mill Creek still have the rights to Silver Mask? If so, they should make that happen.)

  • A Chinese movie title Dragon Force: So Long Ultraman, presumably part of a larger “Dragon Force” franchise that I know nothing about, debuted a trailer recently featuring its own heroes interacting with our favorite red-&-silver icon, and even had an awkward talk show promotion by a dude in body paint. One problem: The producers, Blue Arc, got the rights from Chaiyo, so predictably Tsuburaya was not happy about the whole thing. The trailer has since been removed (it also used some music from Fist of the North Star, so there could be other rights issues there), but the internet will always remember. Sort of a shame that the project got this far along before crashing, but maybe it’ll make a good chapter in a future lost films book.

  • Kamen Rider Build has been revealed from toy catalogs, and it seems to be riffing on a motif from Kamen Rider W: change out one of two components at a time. This time, they seem to be themed as animal+device (see Rabbit Tank below), so I really hope we get Gorilla Guillotine at some point.

  • This poster for Garo: Kami no Kiba has some returning faces that we’ve been anxiously awaiting!

  • Takeshi Obata did art for the American Death Note movie, reviews of which should be materializing soon since it screened at SDCC.

  • The 2017 version of The Mummy has inspired a four-part manga anthology from various artists titled The Mummy: Dark Stories. Being based on a Hollywood property (albeit sort of a flop), it’d be great if it eventually got a US release as well!

  • A French live-action movie of City Hunter is in the works, directed by and starring  Philippe Lacheau. Given what radical departures the Hong Kong and Korean versions were, who knows what France may bring to it?
  • Kotobukiya has a bishoujo statue of Ask from Evil Dead 2 in production. Their other horror character revisionings have been a little hard to swallow, but this one…works really well. When can we get a full series with girl Ash?

Whew! That’s a lot! Anyway, as always leave a comment if something got left out. Otherwise, look forward to some special coverage of something else mentioned in this recap, coming soon….

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Maser Patrol podcast episode 32: “Kaiju Manga Raids Again” at G-Fest XXIV

This is a sequel to last year’s manga presentation at G-Fest; it might be a good idea to watch that one first.

The slides don’t quite match the audio because of some technical difficulties, so this is a reconstruction of sorts.

As for other issues…well, it was the first panel on Sunday morning. I was a little frazzled and mangled some Japanese here and there. I promise the other ones are better. I said to watch the other manga one first, right?

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Maser Patrol podcast episode 31: “Kaiju Anime” at G-Fest XXIV

G-Fest was last weekend, and I got to give two talks! This is the better of the two, being less sleep-deprived and less plagued by technical difficulties, but the other one should also be showing up online within a few days as well!

Oh, and for the record, yes, Michiru Oshima did the music for M78: Love & Peace (good catch, audience!), the 31st episode of Digimon Adventure has the Godzilla vs. Hedorah sequence in it, and I need to learn to say “GunBot” instead of “GunBorg”.

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Japlanet of the Apes

2017 is a great year for fans of Hollywood cinema who also happen to be Japanese pop culture junkies, as the two industries intersect quite a lot. There are plenty of obvious crossover points (Rings, Ghost in the Shell, Death Note, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Power Rangers, Midnight Sun), as well as less-obvious huge, iconic multimedia franchises that straddle the Pacific (Transformers: the Last Knight, Valerian and the City of 1000 Planets, the thus-far untitled Cloverfield sequel, the myriad Marvel and DC adaptations). As we’ve done with King Kong and with Star Wars, I thought it might be fun to look at the footprint one of these pop-culture juggernauts left on the land of the rising sun: Planet of the Apes. If you’ve never seen any of the movies, check them out, ’cause here be spoilers.

For personal giggles, I put a Dragonball Z scouter on my DVD-set/bust of Caesar from Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. It’s a good nerd cred litmus test: the tech is introduced in the DBZ as equipment used by the Saiyans, a group of savage simian aliens who overthrew the more advanced species that used to rule their planet. I’m not sure if Akira Toriyama was drawing on the PotA saga for that backstory (the heyday of its mania had long passed), but when the movies first got released in Japan they certainly made a splash.

The first movie hit Japan less than two months after its US premiere, and some were surprised that the film made it that far. The original novel is by Pierre Boulle, most famous for The Bridge on the River Kwai, who, while not a POW himself, possibly harbored some resentment about the way the Japanese treated their captives during the second world war (though the Planet of the Apes novel is much more a spoof of French society). As a result, the original Planet of the Apes is often read as an allegory for Japanese prison camps, but if the intent was to make something anti-Japanese, perhaps the production wouldn’t have hired Fuminori Ohashi (who’d worked on previous Japanese King Kong flicks) as a makeup consultant. 1 At any rate, the film’s release was also a generation removed from wartime, so the relatively young target audience would be ignorant of such symbolism, even if it was intentional. They saw a fun, gripping sci-fi adventure with a cautionary twist ending (which would become a big theme in the decade of cinema to follow), and they loved it.

The movie had two separate manga adaptations: a 63-page treatment by Johji Enami in Bohken Oh (often listed as the “Adventure King” version), simultaneous with the film’s release, and a 250 page graphic novel by Minoru Kuroda for Manga Tengoku released in 1971. Enami had a background in adapting Tsuburaya’s Ultra works, and interestingly enough would go on to adapt Saru no Gundan into manga form. Possibly to avoid spoiling the impact of the then-current movie, the film’s iconic final shot is omitted, and the story ends with our protagonists riding into the sunset on horseback.

Kuroda, on the other hand, was a horror mangaka by trade, and his manga adaptation includes some grotesque embellishments, such as two human heads sewn together onto the same topless torso in a cruel medical experiment by the apes (NSFW, obviously).

The four sequel films each hit Japan within two months of their respective US debuts, and the live-action TV series hit Fuji TV the spring after its US finale. The various English-language novelizations were translated into Japanese as well, but the only other Japan-original work I’m aware of is Mitsuru Sugaya’s manga adaptation of Battle for Planet of the Apes, the final entry in the original series and the one that most directly catered to Japanese audiences. 2  I particularly love how Caesar’s hair comes to a point in the back in this manga, it’s very much in line with manga heroes like Koji Kabuto and Cyborg 009. (No surprise there that Sugaya was one of Shotaro Ishinomori’s disciples.)

Of course, to really gauge how popular something is, one has to look at its imitators. The first of these is Space Apeman Gori, a 1971 giant hero show generally regarded as the first of the “henshin” boom of transforming superhero dramas, also known as the second kaiju boom. Unlike similar hero shows, Space Apeman Gori‘s title character is the villain, a mad scientist from planet E, along with Gori’s henchman Lla. (This proved an awkward move, so after episode 20 the hero character was incorporated into the title as Space Apeman Gori vs. Spectreman, and after episode 40 it was simply retitled to Spectreman.) The primate invaders were notably not part of the original concept for the show (in the pilot version called “Jaguarman“), but were specifically added by Souji Ushio in response to Planet of the Apes. Gori has an iconic look to him, as his gorilla face clashes brilliantly with well-kept blonde locks and a pink jumpsuit, memorable enough to grace the cover of Tokusatsu Hihou‘s second issue as recently as 2015.

The show was a success in Japan and abroad, as one of the big four kaiju shows aired in the US (along with Johnny Sokko, Space Giants, and Ultraman), and along with Super Sentai inspired a parody in France called Léguman. The duo of Gori and Lla (without Spectreman) also made a significant appearance at the end of Yudai Yamaguchi’s Cromartie High School movie in 2005. Finally, it would be negligent not to mention that Gori was the inspiration for The Powerpuff Girls‘ chief antagonist, Mojo Jojo.

Japan wasn’t done with apish aliens after Spectreman wrapped, though. 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla introduced one in a long line of nefarious invaders to that franchise, and, like the cockroach aliens in Godzilla vs. Gigan, the aliens from “the Third Planet from the Black Hole” revert to their true form upon receiving injury. Not content with a single invasion, these baddies return in 1975’s Terror of Mechagodzilla, the Dark Horse Godzilla comics run in 1995 (again with a giant robot, making them and Shokirus the only returning characters from the films), and in IDW’s Godzilla Legends in 2012.

The most transparent attempt to exploit PotA imagery, though, came in the form of Tsuburaya’s 1974 TV series Saru no Gundan (“Army of the Apes”), which ran in Japan roughly concurrently with the US broadcast of the Planet of the Apes TV series. Tsuburaya was no stranger to ape aliens (Ultraseven had one back in 1967, after all), but this show goes with the straight-up super-evolved earthling variety, with a group of humans going into cryogenic suspended animation and awakening to the world run by chimps (this show has violent chimpanzees and chill gorillas, which is more biologically accurate). While the outrageous fashion that the apes don dates the show firmly to the 1970s, it did okay for itself on release, especially since it was up against Heidi and Space Battleship Yamato in the same time slot. Toys, manga, sonorama, board games, and more were produced, and the show squeaked out a respectable 26 episodes, but never did Ultraman numbers. It’d be nice if it got picked up by Crunchyroll or Toku just to add some variety to the available Tsuburaya programming; the only English translation is a messy compilation film from Sandy Frank titled Time of the Apes, never released on DVD and best known for its treatment on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Shotaro Ishinomori’s 1977 manga Jun (which is quite a trip) has a potential visual nod to the first movie, but it’s in a vague, artsy enough context that it *could* have been arrived at independently. Other stories with time-slips to post-human futures, such as The Drifting Classroom and Prime Rose, are sometimes presented in relation to Planet of the Apes, but honestly that’s a stretch, since even H.G. Wells was laying the groundwork for that template well beforehand.

Speaking on Ishinomori, his 1978 show Message from Space: Galaxy Wars had an ape-man in the primary cast, though that was quite possibly also influenced by Chewbacca from Star Wars.

Without new movies coming from Hollywood, it seems the Apes’ popularity had run its course. The only further influenced work I can think of is the 1989 anime movie Garaga (which is a little hard to search for since it uses the same spelling in Japanese as the popular video game Galaga). The movie has astronauts crash on a planet filled with dinosaurs, psychics, and ape men in distinctly medieval-looking armor. It was made by some of the same animation staff that worked on Thundercats, which one can sort of see in the aesthetics. It’s… well, it’s not that great of a film, to be honest.

Nowadays, we have an entire new series of Planet of the Apes films, and it’s hard to say quite what their eventual impact will be. (If nothing else, Asian Kung-Fu Generation released a song called “Planet of the Apes” in 2015.) It’s neat to watch the franchise evolve on the western front, but I hope we see some Japanese-made manga adaptations, spin-offs, and imitators in the future. It’s tradition, after all!

…by the way, why are you all telling me to watch Kemono Friends?


1 It might also be worth noting that director Franklin J. Schaffner was a veteran of the Pacific side of the war, but he was also born in Tokyo and lived there for a good chunk of his childhood. Meanwhile, screenwriter Rod Serling had contributed to a banned Twilight Zone episode about the plight of Japanese Americans, and by all accounts was much more concerned with allegories for domestic race relations and nuclear proliferation within the Apes script.

2 For nearly a decade, importing the Japanese laserdisc was *the* best way to watch the series, as deleted scenes such as bomb bits of Battle for the Planet of the Apes were only viewable that way. Battle also had scenes filmed specifically for the Japanese audience, upping the violence to suit the tastes of 1970s audiences, for a total of about 10 extra minutes of footage. Conquest of Planet of the Apes also had more bloody scenes for Japanese audiences, and thankfully those versions are now available in the west.

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Weekly news recap: Planet of the Monsters trailer, City Shrouded in Patlabor, Gridman anime, and more!

It’ll be a major news recap this week, as a greater-than-average number of exciting Japanese-related genre fiction tidbits have materialized in the past seven days!

  • Not to bury the lead, we now have a trailer for Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters!

The avian creature in the trailer is a “Servum”, a creature mutated from Godzilla’s DNA. Since there are the bird-type and worm-type Servums (or would the plural be Serva?) in official descriptions, I’m guessing this will be a catch-all term like “MUTO”. A non-Godzilla-like Godzilla spawn is causing some consternation in fan circles, but it doesn’t seem that different from Biollante and others. Here’s hoping it makes an impression in the film itself!

  • Crunchyroll waited to announce this until less than an hour before the stream went live, but they picked up Ultraman Geed! Whew, Tsuburaya’s recent dealings with Toku were making me a little nervous about this one. Anyway, the first episode is great.

  • Remember how most folks were interpreted the “highly mobile” addition to The City Shrouded in Shadow as Mobile Suit Gundam? Nope, it was Mobile Police Patlabor! In retrospect, that shouldn’t be as surprising, given the recent revival of Patlabor in both anime and live action, but since Gundam is still top dog (and has had previous video games crossing over with Ultraman and Godzilla), this is still a bit of a pleasant shock. Also, we have a trailer.

  • Seven Seas continues to do virtual magic tricks: this time they licensed Getter Robo Devolution by Ultraman duo Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi! I wonder if they’ll pull a Devilman and bring over the original manga as well? Either way, it’s cool to get the first official English Getter manga release since the Venger Robo days.

  • After the awesome Gridman short as part of the Japan Animator Expo, Trigger has announced it as an entire series! If it holds the same quality as the short, it’ll be fantastic, and hopefully also lead to a translation of the original. Also, the Kill La Kill team of Hiroyuki Imaishi and Kazuki Nakashima are doing a new series called Promare.

  • A new Garo movie, Kami no Kiba, has been announced for a 2018 release. This one again features Ryuga… is that movie with Raiga as the lead still happening?

  • A trailer for Toonami’s new FLCL sequels:

  • Gainax announced a trilogy of movies based on Leiji Matsumoto properties at Japan Expo in Paris. Very crafty of them to promote this Zero Century project in the land of Albator.

  • We got our first trailer for the live-action Bleach movie. The anime and manga suffer from getting re-written to suit the tastes of character polls, so maybe a movie would hold up better?

  • A little more info about the Kamen Rider W sequel: it’s titled Futo Detectives, and is a manga published in Big Comic Spirits (called it!), with art by Masaki Satou.

  • Stan Winston School has a course in making kaiju suits and miniature buildings. Let’s hope it facilitates an entire new generation of practical effects giant monster movies!

  • An ad for DC Super Heroes vs. Eagle Talon, which is sure to usurp Wonder Woman as the best DC movie in years:

  • One more Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure trailer. Last one until the next movie, I promise.

  • Another reboot of The Grudge is in the works. For these Americanized kaidan franchises, is there really any difference between a sequel and a reboot?

Whew! That’s a lot! As always, leave a comment if there are any glaring omissions.

Also: No update next weekend due to G-Fest. Anyone going, hope to see you at the anime/manga panels; otherwise just stop us anywhere to say hi!

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Maser Patrol podcast episode 30: The Fantastic Films of Nobuhiko Obayashi

In this episode, Kevin and Benji have a chat about the wild genre filmography of the mad genius behind some iconic (yet under-represented stateside) Japanese fantasy flicks. If you read those A Space Godzilla translations (parts 1 & 2) and wondered what was up with its creator, here you can hear about a few of his works and get a taste for his eccentric style.

Download link

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Weekend news recap: Book recommendations, Blu-ray preorders, movie trailers, and more!

Back to the weekend for the news recap once again; there shouldn’t be another interruption like that until… Oh, gosh, G-Fest is in less than two weeks! Anyway, here’s a quick rundown of neat Japanese science fiction happenings from the past 10 days:

  • John Lemay’s new book, The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: The Lost Films, was released this week. The newly-covered (in English-language publications) material and attention to detail in this volume is a remarkable step above the two previous volumes (which were already pretty informative), making this the most exciting English-accessible informational tome on kaiju eiga to come out in several years, and a hearty recommendation to above-cursory fans of Japanese giant monsters.
    (In full disclosure, several contributors to the book are friends of this ‘blog, and we get cited as one of the copious sources within it.)

  • Speaking of publications, the 12th issue of Monster Attack Team is only a week away. They’re having a release party in San Diego on the 7th.

  • And while we’re at it, I’ll also go ahead and mention that the essay collection Giant Creatures in Our World is likewise up for preorder, for release November 1. Frequent Maser Patrol contributor Justin Mullis has a section on some of the loftier thematics of Ultraman!

  • Continuing the list of stuff to buy, Dragon Dentist is getting a US home video release on Halloween day. It looks like the original Animator Expo short isn’t included, which is sort of a bummer.

  • The first half of the first season of Garo is finally up for preorder, with a release date of October 17. If you can’t wait, it’s currently streaming on HIDIVE as well.

  • Speaking of unexpected streams, Aoi Honoh is now legally streaming on Viki, under the pun-less title “Blue Fire”. It’s one of the best comedy shows of the decade, so hopefully this brings it to a few more viewers.

  • A proper trailer is out for Adam Wingard’s Death Note movie. It’s already getting flack for deviations from the source material, but it looks pretty faithful to the spirit of Death Note to me.

  • The Ajin movie looks much better than the anime.

  • Here’s a trailer for Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Before We Vanish, which is at least nominally about alien body-snatchers.

  • This PV for Symphogear AXZ showcases the new opening theme:

  • Riku Sanjo is working on a Kamen Rider W sequel, likely in the form of a novel or manga. It’s probably be difficult to get the actors back for something on-screen, but my money’s on this being serialized by Shogakukan.

  • Something of Junji Ito’s is soon getting an anime adaptation. He’s been weirdly underrepresented in animation, aside from Gyo, and I guess part of Steven Universe.

  • Finally, here’s Redking and Zetton selling washing machines:

That’s a wrap for this week; I better get back to preparing for panels!

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