There’s a surprising lack of buzz in the English-speaking fan community about Big Comic Original’s special Godzilla issue from earlier this month. You’d think that a 342-page comic anthology featuring some of the hottest names in manga writing new Godzilla stories would garner a little more attention, but I guess it’s possible that the average English-speaking fan simply hasn’t been able to pick it up yet.
Worry not, dear reader, as we strive to be above-average, so we promptly attained a copy. (Okay, it’s not that hard to get it now, a digital version is up until October 24 on Shogakukan’s website for like $4.)
Here’s a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what the book contains, so you can see if you’re intrigued for yourself. Apologies in advance for some off-the-cuff translations.
- Late Tokugawa Godzilla by Yasuo Ohtagaki (Moonlight Mile) sees the Xilians invading with Godzilla during the Edo period. The art is great here.
- Godzilla and Me by Kenichi Kitami (Fishing Fool Diary) recounts the author’s experience seeing the original Godzilla when he was in middle school. A cute, cartoony anecdote.
- Godzilla Couple by Keigo Shinzo (Green Planet) is about a pair of lovers having sex while Godzilla tears down their neighborhood in the background. Mark that one down under “things the IDW comics will never do.”
- Son of Godzilla Etc by Naoki Urasawa (Monster, Pluto) is actually a bonus story from Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, elaborating on the time Kenji and his sister went to see Son of Godzilla. I wonder if this will be included in future 20th Century Boys reprints or other collections.
- Godzilla 1952 by Yasuhi Hoshino (the 2008 Cyborg 009) is a side story for the original Godzilla, with a bumbling film crew rushing to document the monster’s rampage. There’s some nice attention to detail throughout and some amusing comedic touches.
- Godzilla vs. Kasaibashi Jizo Street Shopping District by Terry Yamamoto (Bow Wow) has a pariah rock-&-roller of a shopkeeper joins forces with his curmudgeonly neighbors to defend their shopping arcade from Godzilla (in their own minds, anyway, it’s not clear if Godzilla actually noticed). Nice art in this one as well.
- Serizawa’s Lunch by Sensha Yoshida (Utsurun Desu) is about Dr. Serizawa going out to lunch. It’s only about 4 pages long.
- The Boy who Saw Godzilla by Daijiro Morohoshi (Yokai Hunter) is about a boy who claims to see Godzilla whenever there are disasters occurring, and naturally his parents and teachers don’t believe him. The style is relatively gekiga, which is to be expected with this author.
- You Cry after the “Skreeonk” by Mochiru Hoshisato (Living Game) is about a scientist going to Infant Island to investigate the “monster language” seen in Ghidorah the Three Headed-Monster and Godzilla vs. Gigan. It’s one of the more interesting ideas explored in the anthology, and the art is appealing.
- Go, our Megalo-Godzi by Naoki Karasawa (Kaijuu Jinsei, Super Cruel and Terrible Tales of Mangaka) is about the fictional filming of Godzilla vs. Megalon (though the title is a play on Godzilla vs. Gigan’s title song). It’s cute.
- Savior Tooth by Itiha Magokoro (I couldn’t find anything else by this author) is a virtually textless story about Godzilla and King Ghidorah fighting one another. The art is sumptuous in a way reminiscent of James Stokoe or Katsuhiro Otomo: lots of little lines everywhere.
- Someday it Could be Done by Rumiko Takahashi (Urusei Yatsura, Ranma ½, Inuyasha) was a bit of a disappointment. At two pages long, and half of the panels showing nothing but text, it feels more like an omake than an actual story. Since Takahashi has a full page advertisement immediately preceding her story, and it’s one of the things that the anthology was sold on, it’s a bit of a bait & switch.
- Godzilla Battle of the Blitz by Shinpei Itou (Marika Seven, Hyper Dolls, Moldiver) features a military battle against Godzilla, climaxing with the reveal of a surprisingly familiar super weapon. Again, this is one of the artists that I’m fond of, and it’s a nice inclusion.
- This isn’t Godzilla by Nobuyaki Hori (Edo Purple Express) is about some people finding a baby monster, which might grow into another Godzilla, and the media circus involved in raising it. The twist ending is wild.
- Doshilla by Yasuhiko Takada (Giragira) is a slice-of-life family drama, but the Godzilla content comes from a Hamtaro/Godzilla keychain that the teenage daughter got as a child, now an important keepsake for her. It’s not a bad story, just something that could be easily changed so that it wouldn’t fit into a Godzilla anthology.
- My Mothra by Tobira Oda (Danchi Tomoo) is about children across Tokyo raising little moth-sized Mothras as pets. When Godzilla attacks, the tiny insects swarm together to form a Mothra-shaped cloud.
- The First Suit Raids Again by Nobuyuki Hori and Yukio Miyama (Lupin The Third M) tells the story of a suit actor walking the street in his Godzilla costume. When he’s attacked by punks, he’s rescued by a surprising deus-ex-machina.
- Memories of G by Kouichi Masahara is a short about a little girl named Emiko and her strange encounter with a boy named Serizawa. It’s not a prequel per se, just a little ambiguous.
- Godzilla Friends by Masahiko Kikuni (Heartbroken Angels) is about the author recounting bonding with a musician over shared love of Toho science fiction movies. It’s sort of dialogue heavy, so I just skimmed it, to be honest.
- Tokukaerekashi by Akira Sasou (Child of a Child) is about a bullied kid who gets some inspiration from a teacher’s tales of Godzilla. It’s not as heartwarming as it sounds, as it ends in a suicide bombing. And here I thought the ending of All Monsters Attack was weirdly dark…
- Country of Godzilla by Kazuichi Hanawa (Doing Time) is another gekiga-styled piece, in which a man sees a collection of plastic model planes destroyed by a human-sized Godzilla.
There are also several written articles, including an analysis of Godzilla by Minoru Kawasaki (The Calamari Wrestler, Monster X Strikes Back), a roundtable with Nobuyuki Hori, Sensha Yoshida, Naoki Karasawa, and Fuyuki Sanada (modeler on Gransazer, Ultraman Saga, Giant Monsters All-out Attack, and more), and interviews with actor Shiro Sano (Godzilla 2000), author Baku Yumemakura (Onmyouji), and musician Masuko Naozumi. I didn’t really read any of them, though.
Final verdict: While not as wild and over-the-top as the The Godzilla Comic anthology series, there’s still a lot of fresh ideas in this anthology, and it’s easily the most exciting thing to happen to the Godzilla manga world in two decades. It’s a shame that, considering the licensing issues with Toho and Shogakukan, it’s highly unlikely that these stories will ever be made officially available in English, though it might not hurt to ask Viz/IDW if they’d be interested in giving it a shot. The magazine is really cheap in Japan, however if they’re never reprinted I could easily envision this becoming a sought-after collector’s item.
Pros: Lots of original stories, great art, low price point
Cons: Not much in the way of original monsters, most of the focus is Showa-era (I guess that’s when the artists were growing up), manga-anthology-quality paper (or, I guess, the digital version).
Bottom line, if you’re a hardcore Godzilla fan, definitely pick it up. Cool projects like it don’t come along often, and I’m quite happy to add it to the library of far-out, obscure, and largely undocumented kaiju manga. Hopefully this helps you, the reader, know what you’re missing… of course, if you’re planning on getting it for a young kid, the Godzilla Couple pages might have to go…