Concrete Revolutio is a show that appears to directly target the old-school otaku that would be reading this blog, so if you haven’t checked it out, I highly recommend doing so. It’s a puzzle of a show, with a nonlinear storyline, retelling the events of the “Shinka” era (a thinly-veiled Showa era), while distorting actual historic milestones through the lens of popular fiction of the time. It’s sort of like a Japanese Anno Dracula or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but using off-brand characters who are reminiscent of Cyborg 009 or Robot Detective or whatnot. It flew pretty under-the-radar, but it’s understandable that those not as familiar with the history it draws from would just find it to be little more than an impenetrable collection tropes.
I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a full rewatch with commentary (though I’d really prefer someone more knowledgeable undertake the sizable task….Funimation, you should really hire the likes of Patrick Macias or August Ragone to do commentary on the home video release!), but for these purposes, I thought it’d be cool to hone in on one storyline in particular, dealing with the “gigantopithecus giganteus” Gagon, for obvious reasons. The couple of episodes have copious shoutouts, as well as meta commentary on the kaiju boom and subsequent yokai boom, but I’ll stick to scenes with the gorilla monster or we’ll be here all day.
Anyway, Gagon is first found on an island, being worshiped by natives, in Shinka 14. Showa 14=1939, roughly corresponding to when HP Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others was first published in Japan, so that’s what I imagine it’s primarily drawing upon, but it’s also when the original King Kong saw re-release. Astute ‘channers have pointed out that Mushitaro Oguri’s Jingai Makyo series (not to be confused with the video game homophone) also started around then; I don’t know much about that anthology, but titles like “Anthropoid” (with the kanji for “fifth ape”) and “Men with Tails” (later adapted by Osamu Tezuka) certainly seem relevant.
Shinka 17 (1942): The creature is captured, and the US tests out its capabilities in allusion to the Manhattan Project.
In Shinka 34 (1959), there’s a rampage where the robotic GigantoGon is controlled by a group of gangsters, only to be killed by the hero Rainbow Knight. If you read the post about Gekko Kamen‘s Mammoth Kong, this should be familiar, but it’s also similar to Marine Kong from the same time. A baby Gagon is found in the remains, and adopted by a young boy.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous characters use the baby ape’s cells to begin a cloning process to purvey more remote-control monsters. When our hero Jiro goes to investigate in Shinka 41, he’s attacked by one such clone. Jiro is also sort of Godzilla (like, the destruction of Tokyo in November Shinka 29 is attributed to him), so the big cyborg ape gets more than he bargained for.
The creator of the monsters goes on the run, and eventually winds up at a student protest over American use of military kaiju (there was a lot of social upheaval regarding nuclear submarines in real-world Japan at the time). One of the US monsters absorbs the baby Gagon, and Megagon is created. It trashes the protagonists, and, surprisingly, joins the peaceful protest.
Our heroes contemplate burning it to death in an “accident” (an allusion to a real-world case where a train carrying US military fuel crashed), as upon exposure to bright lights the creature becomes violent (a lot like the original Kong). Like a good unstoppable kaiju, the conflagration just sort of ticks it off, but it’s eventually felled by Jiro’s giant robot in a melancholic credits sequence, right in front of the kid that raised it.
There’s a lot of other stuff going on in episodes 4-5 (such as some doozies of foreshadowing), but being less giant ape-related, we’ll save all that for another time or a full retrospective. Oh, they did have a nod to Gigass from Ultraman, though:
If I wasn’t clear before, Concrete Revolutio is great. You should be watching.