Today’s selection: Reigo, the Deep-Sea Monster vs. the Battleship Yamato (2008, dir. Shinpei Hayashiya)
Available from: fansub-only
Director Shinpei Hayashiya made a bit of a name for himself with fan films such as Gamera 4: Truth and Godzilla X Deathguirus, despite the fact that these movies are virtually impossible to see. Through this attention, he managed to assemble a dream team of talent for his first professional feature: Keita Amemiya, Tomo’o Haraguchi, and Shinichi Wakasa on design and effects behind the camera, with Susumu Kurobe, Taiyo Sugiura, and Yukijiro Hotaru in front of it.
The premise is one that hadn’t actually been done, though in retrospect it seems obvious: a giant monster movie set during World War II. Kaiju movies are often (and I think often falsely) called a stand-in for war films, so it makes sense to show the Japanese army battling a monster when they were at the peak of their military power. Kaiju period pieces are not unprecedented, but have usually been set during ambiguous samurai/ninja times.
The movie does well for the most part, despite some iffy CG (par for the course in an indie flick), it’s decent. The story is handled with a good amount of gravitas and well-paced (sorely lacking from the miserable comedy sequel Deep Sea Monster Raiga). The monster designs, both for Reigo itself and a large fish creature that the hapless crew of the Yamato catches, are unique and memorable. It’s a fine first outing for Hayashiya as a director, which he’s sadly yet to match with his later work.