Category Archives: kaiju

12 Interesting Things About Gigan

Hailing from Space Hunter Nebula M, the cyborg monster Gigan is one of the odder-looking members of Godzilla’s rogues gallery. With his massive hook-claws, visored eyes and chest-mounted buzzsaw, Gigan has made quite an impression on fandom since his first appearance in 1972. In recognition of this popular daikaiju, here’s a collection of interesting trivia ranging from basic facts to obscurities known by only the most hardcore of fans:

1. Although his first onscreen appearance was in Godzilla vs. Gigan, the character was originally supposed in the never-realized
Godzilla vs. the Space Monsters: Earth Defense Directive, which was retooled as The Return of King Ghidorah before the project got canned. However elements from those scripts were used in Godzilla vs. Gigan (which is reflected in the film’s Japanese title, Earth Destruction Directive: Godzilla vs. Gigan) and Godzilla vs. Megalon.

2. Despite what some might think, the name “Gigan” was not chosen due to its connection to the word “Gigantic.” Although it is true that the term “Gigan” has been applied to giant monsters before, Gigan’s name might actually be a play off the Japanese term for “artificial eye.”

3. Although Gigan is shown shooting a laser from his forehead in video games and the poster art for Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs. Megalon, this power was never used in any of Gigan’s film appearances until 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars. The reason for this is explained here.


4. While reading the third volume of The Illustrated Night Parade of A Hundred Demons by Toriyama Sekien, I noticed that the monster Waira has arms similar to Gigan’s. Could this have been part of the inspiration for Gigan’s design?

5. Gigan’s final appearance in the Shōwa era was in the 11th episode of Zone Fighter, where he fought both Godzilla and the titular Zone Fighter.

6. Speaking of Zone Fighter, Gigan gained the ability to generate explosions with his hooks in his appearance on the show.

7. Similarly, Gigan got new powers in Godzilla: Final Wars, such as being able to fire grappling cables and razor sharp discs. Over the course of the film, Gigan’s arms are replaced with giant chainsaws. Also, he is given jetpacks to aid in flight and a barbed tail.

8. Gigan was originally played by Kenpachiro Satsuma (aka Kengo Nakayama), who also played Hedorah and went on to play Godzilla in the Heisei Godzilla series. In his most recent appearance, Gigan was portrayed by Kazuhiro Yoshida. I can’t say this with any certainty about Mr. Yoshida’s experience, but I do know that Mr. Satsuma’s costume had heavy claws and feet made from solid resin.

9. Sonic Riders: Zero Gravity has tracks called “Gigan Rocks” and “Gigan Device” featuring statues of a Giganlike creature.

10. In the 1980’s, an especially odd unlicensed Gigan toy was produced. This “Gigan” had eyes, two clawed digits on its hands and feet, a buzzsaw that started in the middle of its stomach and an odd color scheme. Someone even wrote in to G-Fan magazine about it, asking if it depicted how Gigan looked before he was converted into a cyborg!

11. Those who are familiar with the Trendmasters Godzilla toyline from the 1990’s might recall that the picture of Gigan on the packaging looked much different than the actual toy. That’s because it was (allegedly) a picture of a Japanese model Trendmasters had purchased to aid in designing their Gigan toy.

12. In his original appearances, Gigan was depicted as being 65 meters (about 213 feet) tall. For his 2004 revival, Gigan was boosted up to 120 meters (about 394 feet) tall!

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Forget Turkey Day, it’s Turtle Day!

We here at Gravedigger’s Local 16 celebrate Godzilla’s birthday every year, but what about Gamera?

Regular readers of this site are no doubt familiar with Japan’s favorite giant, flying turtle (that breathes fire to boot). If not, then you need to read this. Now. In either case, what you may not realize is that the first Gamera movie came out all the way back in 1965 on this very da…What? It came out on the 26th? Seeing as how I’d have to wait until 2015 to have this article posted on the correct day and still have it be Thanksgiving at the same time, I’ll think I’ll just celebrate a day early. I’d probably still be too busy being in a food coma to write this up tomorrow anyway.

In honor of Gamera’s birthday, I wanted to post something really unique and special. So let’s look at the Gamera movie that never made it. After 1971 Gamera vs. Zigra (the 7th film of the original series), Daiei planned on pitting Gamera against a giant serpent called Garasharp. Although things apparently got to the point where a costume was made, Daiei’s bankruptcy effectively ended the project. Sadly, the costume was either unavailable, unusable or forgotten when the Tokuma Shoten publishing company bought Daiei and released Gamera: Super Monster in 1980. It’s a shame, too, as doing so would have spiced up what little new Gamera footage was shot for the film (which largely consisted of stock footage from the previous entries in the series).

However, fans did eventually get a chance to see Garasharp. For you see, a short film was created about the film for the release of the Gamera series on laserdisc (and later carried to DVD). Using a combination of interviews and narration over concept art, storyboards and models, the basic plot for the film was revealed. Thanks to kaijusroyaume, we can watch it right this instant:

I don’t know much Japanese, but the basic jist of the video is that Gamera would fight and eventually kill Garasharp. Although Garasharp dies, it was able to give birth to either two offspring or a single two-headed creature. Being the friend of all children, no matter what species they are, Gamera spares the offspring’s life by flying it to a deserted island to live out its days in peace. The end also offers a tantalizing glimpse at another monster in addition to Garasharp: a bulky orange monster on four thin legs that isn’t shown in the synopsis detailed in the video. Apparently, this creature is named “Malcobkarappa” and its name seems to indicate that it’s a mutated fungal growth of some kind, presumably something that was originally growing on (or in) Garasharp.

Hopefully, Kadokawa Pictures (the company that bought Tokuma Shoten and now owns Daiei’s assets) will see fit to revive Garasharp and Malcobkarappa for a future Gamera film. Until then, we’ll have to make due with the information gathered here. I’m just thankful they made that video showing what could have been.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Happy (Early) Birthday Gamera!

For He’s A Jolly Good Kaiju…

…which nobody can deny!

That’s right, it was on this very day that the first Godzilla was released in Japan. So what better way to celebrate the first Godzilla movie than by watching Godzilla movies? Thankfully, Crackle has a bunch of streaming Godzilla films available online and they’re all legit.

If you want more streaming tokusatsu fun (albeit not Godzilla or Toho-related), head on over to Hulu to watch episodes of Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and Ultraman Towards The Future (known as Ultraman Great in Japan). But parents should keep in mind that level of violence might be an issue in Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot and that a character swears in the 5th episode of Ultraman Towards The Future.

Finally, here’s a cool Godzilla blog that you should check out.

Happy Birthday Godzilla!

Toho vs. Zilla

Despite authorizing the changes made to the character in the American Godzilla movie from 1998, Toho has never been shy about indulging the majority of Godzilla fandom’s desire to see the original Godzilla battle (and destroy) the American version. That same year, Toho’s video game division released Godzilla Trading Battle for the original PlayStation. Despite the game featuring most of the studio’s stable of giant monsters (including several created just for the game), the game’s cover focused instead on the battle between the two Godzillas. I’m not 100% sure of what the gameplay is like, but the title makes me suspect that card games are involved somehow.

In what may or may not be a coincidence, the next year’s release of Godzilla 2000 featured a scene where a character notes that the monster Orga is trying to become a “Godzilla clone” by assimilating Godzilla’s DNA. Immediately after this is said, there’s a scene where the mutating creature’s face bears a strong resemblance to the star of Tristar’s movie. In 2001, there was a definite jab at the movie in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. During a conversation about giant monster attacks, there’s a reference to a monster attacking New York in 1998 that Americans claimed was Godzilla. The tone of the speaker makes it very clear that they doubt it was really the Japanese Godzilla.

Then in 2004, Toho did something that the fans had never thought would ever happen: They put both Godzillas in the same film, Godzilla: Final Wars. However, the American creation was renamed “Zilla” (replacing fan-made names like “Fraudzilla” and “GINO”-Godzilla In Name Only) as it was felt that there was nothing “God”-like in the creature. First sent out to attack cities by invading aliens, Zilla is then sent after Godzilla with predictable results (with the alien leader making an amusing comment on the events). I won’t spoil things by telling exactly what happened, but I will say that it probably shocked the heck out of anyone who stumbled across the scene while channel-surfing and initially assumed it was from the Tristar film (or one of the Doritos commercials using stock footage from said movie)…

Freaky Tiki Surf-ari: Daikaiju

Daikaiju

Official Site

Daikaiju, Reptile Records 2005


Not to be confused with the similarly-named anthology series, Daikaiju is a surf band known for music influenced by Japanese monster movies (hence the name) and the kabuki masks worn by the four band members in order to hide their identities. Thankfully, the band’s origins are much less mysterious.

Daikaiju first appeared in 1999 in Alabama, coincidentally(?) the same year that the classic Godzilla movie Destroy All Monsters was set in. After years of live performances and self-released CD-R singles, the band teamed up with Reptile Records. This resulted in their appearing on the 2003 compilation album Heavy Surf and the band’s self-titled debut album in 2005 (which I’ll be reviewing today).


Being a huge fan of surf music and Japanese monster movies, it was only natural that I’d stumble across their music and enjoy it. But even if they had used a different theme, I’d still love the wonderful mix of guitars and drums. This is definitely a case of music making the gimmick and not the gimmick making the music.

“Daikaiju Die!” starts things off with pounding guitars and drums, then later mellows out for a spell. It gets very reverb-heavy, picks up speed and mellows again in a return to the style of beginning and builds for a big ending. If you like this, you’ll definitely enjoy the rest of the material on the album.

“Attack of the Crab Women” has what can only be described as a “classic” style opening. The strumming speeds up and drumbeats get mixed in and some parts have much in common with prior track. This song is also an example of how modern surf bands (especially horror-themed ones) can do songs that evoke things associated with surfing and the beach without actually being about surfing.

“The Trouble With Those Mothra Girls” has a slowish opening, but the strumming and cymbal beats gives it a light and quick feel. But if those parts symbolize the little handmaidens, then the song revving up at points is probably a reference to their gigantic protector coming to save them (and destroy any buildings that get in its way). After “Mothra” subsides, we get a drum “solo” coupled with some light guitar work before it revs up again and fades out.

This particular song is quite special to me, as it was one of the songs I used on the proto-GdL16 Halloween countdowns I did on my old Myspace account. It started as me changing my profile song to something spooky every week or so in October, but Strange Jason suggested that I add reviews and articles to the mix in 2008 (even offering to do the same on his page). Although that part of the countdown eventually turned into Gravedigger’s Local 16 and never appeared on Myspace, the use of spooky profile songs went ahead as planned.

“Sharkakhan” starts off speedy with heavy undertones, like a massive beast swimming beneath the waves. It eventually speeds up even more and lots of “wet” reverb is heard until it goes back to original style. The title and tone of the song bring a giant shark monster to mind, like some distant, terrestrial relative of Gamera’s foe Zigra.

“Showdown In Shinjuku” opens with loud, heavy guitar use that sounds like massive footsteps. As things speed up, one can easily imagine a fast-paced brawl between two giant monsters in Shinjuku, with their loss and regaining of energy suggested by the alternating pace of the music and the drum-dominated ending signifying the final blows. “The Daikaiju Who Loved Me” has an appropriately soft, slow guitar intro, which then gives way to energetic beat that sets the tone for the rest of the song. It’s almost Latinesque in its use of guitars at times.

“Son of Daikaiju” is another fast-paced Daikaiju tune, but it’s still unique compared to other songs of similar pacing. For example, there’s an interesting guitar riff scattered throughout the song and cymbals come back into play here and never let up. “Incognito” has an interesting effect on its opening guitar. It’s kind of like “beatnik surf,” especially the drum use. This also has a “Latin” sound at times.

“Super X-9” has heavy, speedy opening that implies technology then launches into a surf beat. Said beat is very fast and powerful, just like the fictional flying superweapon that inspired its name (although the “real” Super-X only made it up to a third model). It slows down at times, but loses no sense of power and quickly speeds up, like a flying battleship performing a complicated maneuver that leads up to its big, fast-paced finish.

“Farewell to Monster Island” is the final and longest track of the album. The soft, slow opening has a definite melancholy feel to it. This is followed up by a cool, “tropical” riff and the drum beats and guitar that follow convey the feel of floating away on a long, slow boat trip. Although the majority of the song evokes someone feeling sad to leave (or sad that its the last song), there are occasional upbeat parts (as if remembering one can always return to Monster Island/replay the CD). This is tied with the first track as my all-time favorite Daikaiju song.

If you’re a fan of surf music and/or Japanese monster movies, you definitely owe it to yourself to check out Daikaiju’s work. Speaking of which, they’ve recently released a download-only single called “Flight of Garuda” (also the name of their previous tour) and are (as of this writing) in the middle of their “Double Fist Attack Tour!”

Special thanks to Daikaiju for the review copy!

More Cool Cover Art

While browsing through the recent “Gravedigger’s Local 16 Flashback” entry, I couldn’t help but find myself drawn to the “Cool cover art” entry. Although the website noted in it (Critical Condition Online) is the undisputed king of online VHS cover art collections, I was inspired to see if there were any other sites devoted to cover art scans out there. I was not disappointed:

Itsonlyamovie.co.uk has a nice selection of British VHS covers from before the infamous “Video Nasties” crackdown.

Retro Slashers has a wonderful collection of the sort of slasher film box art that used to thrill us back in the day.

Both the Uranium Cafe and Friday the 13th: The Website have some cool pages devoted to VHS covers.

The Lightning Bug’s Lair has a cover gallery devoted solely to Christmas-themed horror movies.

Toho Kingdom has numerous pages devoted to both VHS and DVD covers.

Last but not least, the Horror Section offers a huge collection of covers from the best section of the video store, along with reviews and other goodies.

Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales

You can find horror anthologies devoted to just about every subject these days. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, aliens, Frankenstein’s monster, H.P. Lovecraft, slashers…the list goes on and on. But one subgenre was sadly neglected in the world of horror anthologies: good old fashioned giant monster attacks!

Thankfully, the fine folks at Agog! Press took notice and corrected this terrible oversight with a trilogy of books. Originally intended as a one-off release, the amount of submissions for Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales was so great that the extra material was split off into two other books: Daikaiju!2 Revenge of the Giant Monsters and Daikaiju!3 Giant Monsters Vs. the World. Although the cover art and contributing authors change from book to book, the fact that they’re edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen remains the same throughout them all.

Thanks to Google Books, you can read lengthy previews of all three tomes. What awaits you? Complete stories and snippets, both serious and comical featuring original creations and, for all intents and purposes, famous daikaiju with their serial numbers scratched off (if you catch my drift). Some give their monstrous creations names and others opt to leave the creatures unnamed. I prefer stories that opt for the second method, as I feel it reflects the mysterious nature of the gigantic beasts that suddenly spring forth from the dark places of the Earth to trample cities while terrified citizens flee rather than concern themselves with naming something.

So please, give these books a try. I’ll think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of ways there are to tell a story about giant monsters (not unlike my surprise when I found that the first book had a story featuring Frank Wu’s “Guidolon the Giant Space Chicken”). There’s radiation, magic and even a zombified Paul Bunyan!

Daikaiju! Giant Monster Tales

Daikaiju!2 Revenge of the Giant Monsters

Daikaiju!3 Giant Monsters Vs. the World

If that isn’t enough, there’s Robert Hood’s companion website and another story collection which I suspect was inspired by this series.

Mothra Madness

Mothra is actually based on a serialized Japanese novel called The Luminous Fairies and Mothra.

Mothra was supposed to battle the unused monster Bagan in a never-realized 1990 film called Mothra vs Bagan. Elements of that script, along with the similarly never made Godzilla vs Gigamoth, were utilized in the 90’s version of Godzilla vs. Mothra.

Mothra is said to bear a resemblance to an European Peacock Butterfly.

During the DVD commentary for the South Park episode “Mecha-Streisand,” series co-creator Trey Parker revealed that his favorite Japanese monster movie is Mothra.

After finishing Gravity’s Rainbow, author Thomas Pynchon was rumored to have been working on a Mothra novel. However, this turned out to be untrue.

Wikipedia claims that Mothra’s distinctive chirp was created by speeding up Anguirus’ roar. That section also claims that Mothra was never realized by a person in a costume, which is disputed here.

In the movie Pokémon: Giratina and the Sky Warrior, Mothra’s chirp is used to create Giratina’s cry. The film was distributed by Toho (better known as the studio behind the Godzilla movies) in Japan…

In the American dub of The Magic Serpent, Mothra’s chirp is used as the voice of a giant bird. Similarly, the film’s dragon now has Godzilla’s roar and the giant toad uses Rodan’s cry.

The popularity of Mothra among women in Japan prompted Toho to make the 90’s version of Godzilla vs. Mothra.

When Mothra was released in America, the distributor suggested that theaters should display radioactive materials in their lobbies in order to build publicity for the film!

Eagle-eyed daikaiju fans might notice how the eyes of larval Mothra are red in her cinematic debut, yet they turn blue in Godzilla vs. Mothra(aka Godzilla vs. the Thing in America). In fact, they stay that way for the remainder of the old school Godzilla movies).

If you look at official reference guides, Mothra is much larger than Godzilla when she appeared in Mothra and had to be scaled down for her appearances in the Godzilla franchise.