After suffering through Gamera vs. Barugon, one of the worst kaiju films I’ve seen (so far, I rather guarantee I’ll see worse), I was ever so slightly gun-shy going into Gamera vs. Gyaos. But only faintly so, as cursory research revealed that Gyaos became one of the most popular of Gamera’s foes, actually appearing in every era of Gamera films. Typically when a character breaks out like that there’s something worth watching in his first appearance. There’s a reason why Barugon never shows up again, despite being Gamera’s first ever opponent. The reason is because Barugon sucks. He sucks so hard.
Gamera vs. Gyaos starts with a series of earthquakes and volcanic activity striking Japan. This geological catastrophe concludes with Mount Fuji erupting. The heat and energy attracts Gamera, who feeds on that sort of thing. Gamera doesn’t really do anything, except suckle at the reinvigorating volcanic heat. The volcanic eruption slows down work on a new expressway being built (being built by the company Express Engineering Corps no less). This introduces us to the human element of Gamera vs. Gyaos. There’s a small child who lives in a village that sits in a location integral to the new freeway. The villagers are protesting and sabotaging the attempts of the heroic freeway construction workers. No shoehorned ecological message to be found in this movie. The freeway isn’t carving out natural habitats or endangering the villagers’ quaint way of life. Instead it’s progress, and the villagers are foolish and close-minded to fight against it.
A plane surveying the forest near the village is caught off guard when its pilots spot a glowing rock formation that looks kind of like a face. A yellow laser beam spouts from the rocks cleanly slicing the plane in half. Afterwards Eiichi, the aforementioned kid from the village, is climbing through the forest. He comes across a rather weaselly reporter who convinces him to guide him to the rock formation. There’s something to be pointed out in how automatically the movie vilifies a reporter that tries to get a look at something the government is hiding. He’s cowardly and manipulative and if he had a moustache he’d twirl it. The two make their way towards the caves. When they get there, an ominous green light is pulsating and emanating from the grottos. They creep inside the caverns when suddenly Gyaos emerges! Exclamation point!
So the energy coming from Gyaos attracts Gamera and they fight. It’s a pretty cool fight. Gyaos’ beam gets Gamera on the ropes pretty quickly. Gyaos is fairly thrown off by Gamera’s fire, but laser beams trump fire. Gamera seems to notice the danger Eiichi is in and scoops him and deposits him on his back, flying away. Cue many shots of Eiichi on Gamera’s back like a frickin’ luck dragon or something. Gamera is a friend to all children you know. Which, okay, is actually kind of a fun character trait for a giant turtle monster. Someone should mash up this scene with shots of Falcor though. It would work perfectly. Gamera flies Eiichi to a carnival conveniently located close by. The heroic construction worker ascends the ferris wheel to grab Eiichi off Gamera’s plated back.
So lets take an interlude here to talk about the initial design of Gamera’s longest lasting foe! Gyaos is a kaiju that spends a lot of time flying. Especially in later redesigns he could be compared to a bat. His long arms each have two hands, one at the elbow, so when he folds up his wings he has hands roughly where a human’s would be. The other pair of hands is at the end of his outstretched mammalian wings. His head is harshly angular, actually sort of resembling the MUTOs in the 2014 iteration of Godzilla. His head is pretty cool, and the two lengths of arm/wing configuration is a fun feature. His glowing green warning lights and yellow lasers are iconic, making up for the gross fire-extinguisher foam he blasts from…well under his wings. It’s either his nipples or his armpit, either way it’s a little too reminiscent of Barugon’s penis-tongue foam. Foam isn’t cool, kaiju movies, foam isn’t cool. The true point of Gyaos’ design becomes clear when he flies. He folds up his body, perks up his previously unnoticeable tail, extends his wings, tucks his head flat and soars through the air. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a toy plane with rubber stuck to it! Almost certainly flying Gyaos is literally a small toy plane with rubber glued on it. It still manages to be unique enough to land firmly on the cool side of lame special effects.
Now back to the plot. The kid spends a lot of the rest of the time wandering around the military proposing theories about Gyaos, who he names via onomatopoeia. Because his roar apparently sounds like “gyaos”.
The main take away is that Gyaos is really old. He was awoken by the earthquakes. He eats people. The most important discovery they make is that he’s nocturnal, furthering the bat theme. The light disturbs him greatly. The most entertaining portion of this is when they guess at Gyaos’ anatomy vis-a-vis his laser beam. They conclude it’s a supersonic blast created by Gyaos’ two (utter guess work on the part of the scientists here) throats vibrating like a tuning fork. No word on why it’s yellow. The citizens of Japan get told to stay inside at night and keep as many lights on as possible, hopefully repelling Gyaos. Of course Gyaos pops up again and Gamera engages him in another fight.
Gyaos’ laser deals more than a little damage to Gamera, beating him fairly handily. The fairly injured Gamera flies off to go heal underwater. Which, quick question, why does water heal the fire-breathing creature that consumes heat and energy? Seems like being cold and wet would be counterproductive. I guess it’s because he’s a turtle, but not all turtles are aquatic guys. I’m not terribly sure its a bad idea, I just wish there was a wee bit more justification.
Gamera and Gyaos fight again, in the water, as the sun rises. It’s awesome. This movie doesn’t skimp on fights, and most of them are pretty damn cool. This one sees Gamera half in the ocean holding Gyaos’ foot as the sun rises, trying to let the sun kill him. The orange light washes over the scene and casts a decidedly atmospheric visual. Gyaos ends up tearing off his own foot instead of getting blasted by the sun. Seriously, that’s what you want from a kaiju fight.
Gyaos runs back to his cave and regrows his foot. Meanwhile the military experiment on the severed foot, discovering that UV light has an instant and violent effect on Gyaos’ flesh. Gyaos doesn’t just hate the light – it injures him. The army figures they can’t make a UV ray big enough to damage him, so they start plotting ways to keep Gyaos in one place while the sun rises. It’s not a proper kaiju movie without a ridiculously convoluted military attempt to beat the villain. Or rather it can be, but that would require thinking too far outside the box. The plan is as follows: attract Gyaos to the ceiling of a carnival building using a fountain of artificially generated human blood. Spin the ceiling, trapping Gyaos on it and leaving him too dizzy to effectively escape to his cave before the sun rises. Shockingly the plan doesn’t go super smoothly.
The engine powering the rotating platform overheats and explodes, letting Gyaos escape. Seems like they should’ve factored in Gyaos’ weight a little better. Humanity’s only hope is Gamera, who, in a moment of limited intelligence (when compared to other moments), decides he has no stakes in the fight. The new plan is to generate enough heat to attract Gamera to the fight. Missiles are employed to start fires and attract Gamera. Gyaos keeps putting the fire out with his armpit foam, but before too long Gamera arrives. The two kaiju sit down and discuss their problems, coming to a peaceful resolution.
Nah, obviously that’s a bad joke, they fight. It’s amazing. At one point Gamera retracts just his hind legs and rockets towards Gyaos roaring and waving his claws. Like he has rocket boots or something. It’s wicked. There’s some aerial combat, lasers, fire, everything you could want from this sort of climax. At the end the sun weakens Gyaos and Gamera hurls him into the now active top of Mount Fuji. Yeah, that happens. It’s beautiful.
Gamera vs. Gyaos is pretty much everything you could want from a kaiju movie. The movie almost forgets about its human element (the villagers decide money is good and agree to the building of the expressway). The fights are many and entertaining. The monster has a cool original design. The powers of the main beast are explored in cool new ways. It’s easily the most fun of the series.
You can watch it here.