Apologies: I’ve been bad about making timely news recaps this year.
2020 has been terrible, and the general stresses of the world combined with some personal life situations/tragedies have made it difficult to find the time and motivation to pour through the news each week. My new years resolution is to try to get more on top of that, though, and to that end I put together a Facebook page, so all I have to do when I see something cool is hit “share” rather than mucking about in WordPress. That should also keep a roughly chronological account of neat news items, as well as other miscellanea that I encounter, and in turn will make it easier when it comes time to round up items to talk about for the ‘blog posts.
It seems like a fool’s errand to try to discuss everything that I’ve been neglecting to since October, but here’s a rundown of a few of the ones that come to mind:
- In what I think is the most exciting development of the past couple of months, we have a trailer for Godzilla: Singular Point, due on Netflix in April. I think that Orange’s CG and Bones’ human animation both look on-point, and the soundtrack is great. Most of the fandom discourse has been around the monster redesigns, though claims that what seems most likely to be Titanosaurus is actually Godzilla because of Keita Amemiya’s old drawing of a Godzilla mosasaur is ones of the wilder bits of speculation I’ve seen bandied about.
A lot of fans are expecting this to be more action-packed and less esoteric than the other modern Japanese productions, but I’ve read enough Toh EnJoe works to know that he can go toe-to-toe with Anno and Urobuchi in the pretentious, impenetrable, techno-philosophical narrative department. I mean, just as one example, for a second the trailer does feature a riff on Kuniyoshi Utagawa’s famous woodblock of Tametomo and the giant fish, only with a red ocean and “古史羅” (“koshira”) written over it, sort of a pun since “koshi” is “ancient history” (NB: this is different than Godzilla’s usual kanji, 呉爾羅). Also EnJoe’s love of time travel and reality-bending narratives also make me think that the “Singular Point” of the title isn’t merely the gibberish that a few others seem to suspect.
- Takeshi Yagi directed a 90-minute special for NHK titled Godzilla’s Leading Ladies (Godzilla & Heroine in Japanese), and it’s a lot of fun. There’s some rare behind-the-scenes video from the 50s and 60s that Tomoyuki Tanaka shot, Yumiko Shaku got back into her Godzilla x Mechagodzilla jumpsuit, Kumi Mizuno talks about working with Nick Adams, Shiro Sano oversees the show, and there’s a robot girl for some reason. It’s very dialogue-heavy, but apparently a subtitled version has been prepared, so hopefully that sees the light of day soon!
- SSSS.Dynazenon is still a little slow on their reveals in the trailers, but the newer one has a bit more in the action department. They’re also wasting no time with marketing this time, as a figure of the title robot is already up for sale.
- As if to respond to the Godzilla SP trailer (but really all just part of Netflix’s big anime reveals presentation), we also got a couple of stills from the unfortunately-titled Pacific Rim: The Black, as well as the leaked opening. I don’t expect much from Polygon, but the opening is in-line with a lot of Netflix openings, from Daredevil to The Haunting of Hill House, not to mention the original Pacific Rim‘s ending.
- Somehow a stupid pun in the Monster Hunter movie resulted in an avalanche of outrage in China. The full explanation of the controversy is outlined here, but be warned, it’s all very, very dumb. The movie’s prospects would likely have been grim at the best of times, considering how preciously fans of the games erupt against the changes made for the adaptation, but without the Chinese market and a worldwide pandemic, its box office was dire. I personally plan to order the Blu-ray sight unseen, but have no movie that I’d risk attending in the cinema right now.
- Hiroto Yokokawa is working on a new kaiju short for next year, Yatsuashi. That’s an impressive speed, seeing as how Nezura 1964 is debuting in January.
- Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger is managing to somehow simultaneously be a celebration of past Super Sentai shows for the 45th anniversary while also not really resembling a Super Sentai team at all. Rather than the typical five matching heroes with the leader in red, this show’s main hero Zenkaiser is a rainbow-colored fellow like JAKQ‘s Big One… the difference being that Big One was an “extra ranger” who only showed up halfway into the show. Zenkaiser is also channeling Dragonranger and Akaranger in his design, but his belt and head crest could just as easily put him at home in a Kamen Rider series.
The rest of the team is not the usual spandex-clad matching heroes, either, but mecha reminiscent of the giant combined robots from Zyuranger, Gaoranger, Magiranger, and Boukenger… they’re even named Zyuran, Gaon, Magin, and Vroon. If anything they remind me most of Gaogaigar‘s support cast (complete with symmetrical docking), so it should make for an interestingly different anniversary series, if nothing else.
- The third season of Thunderbolt Fantasy starts in April.
- Platinum End is getting an anime adaptation. The series is from the duo behind Death Note, and represents a return to that same supernatural mystery/thriller genre, but also features a number of characters in a super-powered cat-&-mouse battle royale wearing superhero outfits to keep their identities secret from one another. It’s not quite as engrossing as Death Note, but still good stuff.
- Mappa will be doing an anime adaptation of Chainsaw Man. The edgy (pun intended) manga has gained a lot of popularity for its insane antics and crass humor, and several readers felt like they were “getting away with something” by having it run in Weekly Shonen Jump, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s been moved online to Shonen Jump+. But regardless, Mappa’s execution of shows like Dorohedoro inspires a lot of confidence in this being superb.
- The Polonia brothers’ 2015 kaiju spoof ZillaFoot has been available to rent on Vimeo from SRS for a while, but with SRS’s recent kaiju home video boom, they’ve decided to extend its hour runtime to feature length, padding it out with additional footage (ala the US cut of King Kong vs Godzilla) sourced from their fans. Time will tell how this approach works out for them, but it’s an interesting idea, nevertheless.
- Here’s a proof-of-concept for an independent flick titled City-Crushing Monster. Not much actual monster footage, for a POC.
- Most of kaiju fandom is more excited for Godzilla vs. Kong than anything else, so it was a big hullabaloo when it was announced that WB’s entire slate for the next year was going directly to HBOMax. This seems a symbiotic arrangement, since WB’s upcoming slate (Dune, Suicide Squad, The Matrix 4) is overwhelmed by franchises that have flopped at the box office, and HBOMax has very little exclusive content of its own so far to bolster it as yet another streaming service in an oversaturated market. However, this was a jerk move to Legendary (who paid for most of Godzilla vs Kong), since they were only informed about this decision when it was made public, and they had to turn down a very lucrative offer from Netflix for the film.
It’s definitely a good decision to send the picture direct to streaming during the COVID pandemic, and possibly a good call to offer an alternative to cinemas even during normal times, but Netflix would have probably been a better home for the title, so it’s a shame that it got to the point where things have begun to get ugly between Legendary and WB.
- SRS has picked up the rights to Monster Seafood Wars, one of the most exciting entries yet in their ever-expanding kaiju library. I hope they take a look at some of Minoru Kawasaki’s older titles that haven’t made it to the English-speaking world yet, as well.
- Arrow’s release of Daiei’s Invisible Man movies is up for preorder for a release in March. A lot of their fans were salty about this announcement (evidently they saw that bandages were hinted at and thought they’d announce Darkman), but I’m ecstatic that anyone’s taking a chance on vintage tokusatsu titles with no prior international release.
- Hakaider is getting a Blu-ray release from Media Blasters; I see they’ve eschewed the “Mechanical Violator” title. I don’t believe there’s a Japanese Blu-ray for the film, interestingly enough, so this might be the first HD version on the market.
- Ultraman Taro is up for preorder, hitting January 12. As mentioned in the panel at Kaiju Con-line, it looks like the numbered classic sets are planned up through Ultraman Leo, and then they’ll do something different.
- Howl from Beyond the Fog is getting a mass-market release on DVD. While it’s neat that getting the movie into Walmarts will get more people to see it, I’m not sure how well it’ll go over with that orange-and teal King of the Monsters mockbuster cover (a lot like a certain Total Film issue, below), though, since it’s such a different kind of film.
- Scorpion is releasing Voyage into Space on Blu-ray. With all of Johnny Sokko on DVD, I don’t have a lot of incentive to pick up the compilation movie, but I’m sure some folks will be into it.
- Not a giant monster movie itself, 1930’s Ingagi was a huge influence on King Kong, but has long been very difficult to see due to its banned film status. However, Kino Lorber is putting it onto Blu-ray, which should go well with their releases of Konga, A*P*E, The Ape, etc…
- Discotek has licensed a bunch of classic mecha anime, including Acrobunch (nobody saw that coming), as well as Daimos and Daltanious (completing the set they started with Combattler V and Voltes V).
- After their license expired for a while, Godzilla is back at IDW. First on the docket: a five-issue comic for “middle-grade readers”, evidently simply titled Godzilla. Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening, and Luis Antonio Delgado are running the book, all of whom have experience with licensed titles at IDW with Ghostbusters, which I’ve heard some good things about. The decision to go after a younger audience makes a lot of sense; the Scholastic market is a huge and under-appreciated segment of American comic sales, routinely trumping the likes of Marvel and DC.
I must confess that this launch title is a little less exciting than last time around, but it still seems worth checking out, and hopefully will lead to more diverse output from the company (but please, guys, see if you can reprint the old Dark Horse/Marvel runs in English!).
- More details have been announced for Phase 6’s Aizenborg comic: Replicating the disparate aesthetics of the original anime/tokusatsu hybrid, the human scenes are being done in this version by Matt Frank using digital art, while Hiroshi Kanatani uses markers to represent the kaiju/hero pieces. It’s a pretty clever approach to take, and after seeing how Redman: The Kaiju Hunter turned out, this could easily bring Aizenborg to a whole new level!
- Rise of Ultraman must be doing somewhat okay as a miniseries, since Marvel just announced that they’re continuing it with Trials of Ultraman in March. There was a little concern after the drop in sales between the first and second issues, selling around 30,000 copies; this isn’t huge numbers for Marvel, but perhaps the potential power of the brand is keeping them on it.
- Skybound has a new Ultraman pastiche on the way, Ultramega. As a fan of Skybound as a line in general, I’d already be onboard, but since James Herrin was also involved with some giant monster stories in BPRD, I have a little extra confidence in it. I know a few Ultraman fans are concerned that it looks a bit like it’s trying edginess for its own sake without doing much original, but we’ll find out when the comic drops in March.
- In very exciting and utterly unexpected news, Seven Seas picked up the license to Shotaro Ishinomori’s original Goranger (or, I guess, “Gorenger“) manga. It’ll be interesting to see how the manga (which is a little goofy at times) is received by the modern Sentai/Power Rangers fan base, and I absolutely love the way that Seven Seas are emulating the (woefully defunct) Shout Factory DVD releases with this cover design. August Ragone’s liner notes with background about the franchise should make for good reading as well.
- Negi Haruba (most famous for The Quintessential Quintuplets) is doing another manga about a group of five, this time titled Sentai Daishikkaku (戦隊大失格, “Sentai Disqualification”). It starts in February in Shonen Magazine.
- Koyoshi Nakayoshi’s manga Sentai Red Becomes an Adventurer in Another World (戦隊レッド異世界で冒険者になる) recently started running in Shonen Gangan. The popular isekai genre has had all sorts of everyday people get reincarnated as heroes in Dragon Quest-like fantasy realms, but this one turns the trope on its head by making the protagonist who dies and gets whisked away to the sword-&-sorcery realm the leader of a sentai team in his past life, bringing his transformations and mecha along with him. These two major genres have certainly met before (e.g. Rayearth), but never in a mash-up quite like this!
- After Ultraman, Getter Robo, and Robot Detective, Eiichi Shimizu and Tomohiro Shimoguchi are rebooting yet another classic hero character, with Batman: Justice Buster for Kodansha’s Morning magazine. Hopefully this one gets a US release; it can always be a crapshoot with manga but Batman has the best history of all American comic heroes in that department.
- Monthly Hero’s is moving entirely online. The magazine going that way is a big deal, since it’s the number one Japanese manga anthology for superhero content at the moment. They’re a 7-11 exclusive, so hopefully this is a way to broaden horizons, rather than a sign that the imprint as a whole is in trouble.
- Symphogear XD Unlimited added Gamera to the ever-expanding list of kaiju franchises that it’s crossed over with. As with their ULTRAMAN, Godzilla, SSSS.Gridman, Nanoha, and Attack on Titan collaborations, it was a good mix of splicing the franchise mythologies together and giving the gears neat new armors based on the kaiju characters. This one apparently got some merch that I’ll have to be on the lookout for, such as posters, buttons, and acrylic standee figures.
- A Godzilla skin showed up in Fall Guys.
- ULTRAMAN‘s Ultraman, despite not being a giant robot, is a main feature in mech fighting game Override 2. (Also, I had to look up their character Watchbot to confirm that it’s not actually Draco Azul)
- Part of the Godzilla Day festivities this year that I don’t think was on anyone’s bingo card was the return of Hamtaro collaborations. I guess with the 20th anniversary of the original Godziham products, it made sense to revive the merchandising line. Matt Frank designed the main image at the center of the new line!
- Mega64 has been doing amusing sweded versions of titles like Dragonball Z and Metal Gear Solid for a while, but their Evangelion really picks it up a notch.
On a sad note, RIP to a few creatives who we’ve lost in the past few months.
- Izumi Matsumoto, creator of the seminal romantic comedy (with ESP powers) Kimagure Orange Road. His work is a powerful, emotional manga at times, and one of the finest anime of the 1980s.
- Tom Kotani, the director of the Rankin Bass pictures The Last Dinosaur, The Bermuda Depths, The Ivory Ape, and The Bushido Blade. The Last Dinosaur is a personal favorite of the entire 1970s tokusatsu canon.
- Daiji Kazumine, arguably the most prolific kaiju mangaka of all time, with work on King Kong, Ultraman, Spectreman, Mirrorman, Godzilla, and countless other titles.
Yeah, it’s been one of those rough years.
But hopefully 2021 will be better. Best New Year’s wishes to all!