I once again made another person read Hiroshi Yamamoto’s kaiju-meteorology novel MM9, because it’s a fantastic, amazing little book, and found myself explaining several subtle nods to the genre I noticed. I was told that I really ought to write this stuff down, and here we are.
Yamamoto has provided some fine (albeit incomplete) annotations on MM9 on the Haikasoru website, which I also checked, confirming several suspicions. Presented here is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of a few educated guesses of what he was referring to so SPOILER WARNING. Page numbers refer to the English edition from Haikasoru.
I’m sure I’m missing some stuff, please let me know if you get it!
Page 11: It’s interesting to start with a monster coming from the Ogasawara islands, as that was the setting of Monsterland in Destroy All Monsters.
Page 13: The Great Hinckley Fire of 1894 is reinterpreted as a kaiju attack, the first of many real-world incidents seen through a kaiju lens. Not sure what Guthrie’s Law refers to.
Page 14: The kaiju version of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 was, as Yamamoto has stated, based on Godzilla. The only real detail that makes this obvious is the mention of a leanchoilia found in its footprint, echoing a scene from the film (pg. 29).
Page 20: “Eve” is the name given for the Romanizing of “イブ”, but I suspect that it’s meant to be “Ib”, as a reference to Ib Melchior, writer of Reptilicus. The monster itself is clearly based on Reptilicus, starting a trend of kaiju named after people involved in the making of their movies.
Page 22: The kaiju rampage at Kobe is a reference to the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
Page 26: Unlike the US, the Japanese do not name tropical storms after people, but usually after animals.
Page 30: Eugene is an allusion to the film Gorgo (directed by Eugene Lourie), while Ray is a reference to the Rhedosaurus from Lourie’s movie The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (written by Ray Bradbury with effects by Ray Harryhausen).
Page 40: The gag of the lobster-based names is their overused cliché, especially the –gon suffix from “dragon” (e.g. Agon, Baragon, Crazygon) and –ra from “kujira” (e.g. Mothra, Gamera, Minilla, Pegila, and in this case, Ebirah is already taken).
Page 46: Not sure what the bird sighting refers to.
Page 52: All of these animals have at least one monster movie precedent; I’ll list the first that comes to mind: ants (Them!), grasshoppers (Beginning of the End), praying mantis (The Deadly Mantis), spiders (a lot of stuff), scorpion (The Black Scorpion), snails (The Monster that Challenged the World), octopus (It came from Beneath the Sea), lizard (The Giant Gila Monster), snakes (lots of stuff), crocodile (Alligator), chicken (Food of the Gods), mice (Food of the Gods), mole (Mongula from Ultra Q), rabbits (Night of the Lepus), monkey (Goro from Ultra Q).
Page 53: Glen is a reference to Glenn Langan, star of The Amazing Colossal Man and War of the Colossal Beast. Allison is would then be Allison Hayes from Attack of the 50-Foot Woman.
Page 59: The monsters experience a different time scale, much like how kaiju movie footage is frequently slowed down to convey a sense of weight.
Page 61: Zeta Transcendents’ terrorist actions seem invocative of the 1995 Subway Sarin Incident.
Page 61: “Kaiju X” is a bit of a cliché itself. The name “Monster X” is sometimes used for Guilala, Jiger, and the first form of Kaiser Ghidorah, not to mention the creature from X the Unknown.
Page 62: Comments on the Haikasoru blog indicate the Asprin is a nod to novelist Robert Asprin, which seems to make sense.
Page 66: Arnold is referencing Jack Arnold, director of Tarantula. Mentioned again on page 145.
This is the only chapter written for the novel, instead of for Mysteries magazine.
Page 87: Not sure what kaiju are being referenced as having radiant horns or bioluminescent back. Could be a lot of things, or nothing.
Page 91: I’d never heard of any of these yokai. They’re all real (as in, not invented for the purposes of this novel), but there’s just not a lot available about them in English. The book later mentions the kappa and slit-mouth woman, who are much more common.
Page 102: I can’t name any Russian giant monster movies, can you?
Page 112: The Guiafairo is a genuine cryptid, one of several African giant bat legends. Also, it pops up in Devil Children.
Page 117: Niuhi is definitely Jiger from Gamera vs. Jiger, but I have no idea where the name Niuhi is coming from (apparently there’s an existing aquatic cryptid that uses the name, but I don’t see how it’s related).
Page 123: Barugon in Gamera vs. Barugon was hatched from a smuggled opal.
This chapter was redone for the TV series; episode 9, making it the only one directly adapted.
Page 135: If the stuff on this page are specific references, I have no idea what they are.
Page 145: The giant ants are from Them!, the octopus is from It Came from Beneath the Sea, and the deadly mantis is, well, from The Deadly Mantis (by the way, its MM9 name is Nathan, for director Nathan Juran).
Page 188: The Orochi is a major part of the Japanese creation myth, appearing in lots of media, including Birth of Japan (AKA The Three Treasures), Yamato Takeru (AKA Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon), and The Little Prince & the Eight-Headed Dragon. This dragon was a design influence on King Ghidorah, who in turn partially inspired the dragon in this book, though cleverly amalgamated with several other deities and monsters. The way this monster messes with electronics is similar to a magnetic effect that Ghidorah gives off.
Page 205: I’m not sure what the half mouse/half dove and half mole/half catfish refer to.
Page 208: Feel like you’re reading The Da Vinci Code yet?
Page 213: Kutouryu is written in katakana, but sounds like the term for “nine dragons.” Of course, this also sounds similarly to Kutouruhu, the Japanese pronunciation for Cthulhu, the elder deity from HP Lovecraft’s story The Call of Cthulhu.
Page 222: The line “In the house of the violent god, dead Kutoryu waits dreaming” is similar to “In his house at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming” from the Lovecraft story. In fact, Kutoryu appears to be saying something similar to this on page 246 (it’s in R’lyehian, anyway).
Final thought: Princess is Ultraman. If that seems unlikely to you, consider all of the talk about reinterpretations earlier in the novel, and how history rewrites female heroes as male ones. Princess is the humanoid monster who changes her size to fight an overwhelming enemy, she doesn’t really talk, and she shoots blue discs of light from her hands. The book ends on a gag of if their world became a weekly TV show, the MMD would have lasers and jet planes, like the science patrol. Considering that Yamamoto is a huge fan of the Ultra franchise and went out of his way to avoid mentioning Ultraman kaiju here (some of the most iconic), it must have been a deliberate choice, either because of the triviality of kaiju in the Ultraman universe, or it was something deliberately saved until the end. I choose to interpret it as the latter.
So there you have it. It’s possible that something else might pop up (I left out certain character names, though Yamamoto mentioned that names like Dr. Akihiko Inamoto and Hideo Tomono have significance), and certainly if another one of the novels gets translated, I look forward to dissecting it.