Sharks, Superheroes, and the End of the Showa Era

So this review actually covers two Gamera movies, Gamera vs Zigra and Gamera the Super Monster. The latter of which is a clip movie, so I rather figured I wouldn’t have much to say about it. I was wrong.

Gamera vs Zigra is a fairly serviceable Gamera movie. Some bad fights, some painful human elements, and a pretty good climactic fight. There are a few nifty variations on the average plots, even if we’re getting another Gamera movie with a “use a submarine to restart Gamera” scene. Ziggurat is intelligent and capable of speech, which is a new addition. There is some recycling of the alien abduction pollen from Gamera vs Guiron though. The last fight scene, that sees the shark-like Zigra whipping through the water at Gamera, was pretty cool. Turns out Gamera can use his fiery breath under water, so add that to the list of nonsense he’s capable of. This list of nonsense, pulled from Wikizilla:

Body Mechanisms (Showa Gamera)

Oil Bag: Gamera can drink oil and similar liquids which are stored in this organ.

Coal Sack: Gamera can eat coal, like the oil bag it contents are sent to the Melting Furnaces.

Melting Furnaces: Gamera can ingest coal, oil, fire, magma and uranium and they are sent here to be burned.

Thermal Energy Conversion Intestines: This is where burned material is converted into thermal energy.

Thermal Energy Heart: Works like the hearts of other organisms, but because it was made for thermal energy it has extraordinary power in comparison.

High Fever Muscles: Gamera’s muscles can produce ten thousand times the force of any human and can withstand high temperatures (High Fever), more so than any conventional metal and are very durable.

Shell: Gamera’s shell is known for its invulnerability, the only known time it has been breached was by Guiron, who struck the same place over and over again. His underbelly does not have this resistance however.

Gamera vs Zigra (also called Gamera vs. the Deep Sea Monster Zigra) came out in 1971. Daiei Studios took a nine-year break from their iconic property. Nine years. Then bankruptcy rang. Faced with a frighteningly final financial situation, Daiei decided to revive Gamera and save the bowling alley! Er, Studio. Here’s the thing though: they wanted to do that without actually spending any money. The classic Gamera team armed themselves with one flying-Gamera prop, three skin tight superhero suits, a new song, a knock-off Star Wars toy, and the reels of film from every past Gamera movie. That and an ill-formed idea to rip-off a much disliked Godzilla movie.

The movie opens with a camera panning over off-brand Star Wars illustrations before introducing the Star Destroyer toy they use for much of the movie. The Star Destroyer sends a spacewoman to find out where the other, hidden, spacewomen on earth are. Turns out they’re in a pet shop, car dealership, and a school. They assemble in their “van” when they sense the impending danger, then decide to stay in their human forms for the foreseeable future so the Star Destroyer doesn’t spot them. So to do this the Star Destroyer sends a monster, Gyaos, to attack the city.

Here’s where things get unclear…I thought this movie was Return of the Living Dead-ing us. In that I thought Gamera was a fictional property in this world, and that the spacewomen use their powers to make this kid’s turtle into Gamera. Either that or the kids psychic turtle link (he also occasionally has premonitions) is incapable of telling turtles apart. What makes me doubt this theory o’mine is the lack of confirmation.

Basically Gamera, whether he be new or the one from past movies, is linked to this kid and he fights Gyaos. He wins too, and it all looks suspiciously like that movie I watched before. Almost like Daiei didn’t even invest in any new suitmation and only shot two new minutes of Gamera.

The spaceship keeps sending new monsters, and Gamera keeps bringing em down. The spacewomen keep slowly befriending an underage boy, showing him their van and making him entertain them. Apparently psychic turtle powers don’t teach you about stranger danger.

Eventually Gamera launches himself at the Star Destroyer and blows it up, sacrificing himself and saving the earth. Then the spacewomen abduct the boy and take him away with them. Like that’s actually how the movie ends. Not only that it’s how this era of Gamera movies ends.

Which should bring us into talk of Gamera eras. Basically Kaiju movies get divided into eras, loosely following the actual eras in Japan. Very loosely. The longest era is the Showa era, which lasted around fifty years. From an Emperor standpoint it started in 1930, and ended in 1989 with The Return of Godzilla. 1989 also marked a change in emperor, hence the change of eras. Film-wise it’s thought of as starting back with the very first Godzilla film, in 1959. The era after that, the Heisei era, gets a little muddier. It’s meant to take place roughly between 1980 and 1998. However for Godzilla the time spans 1984 to 1995. The last two Gamera movies take place after the ending of this era (1999 and 2005) and yet are considered part of it. Meaning that no Gamera movies take place in the Millenium era. Basically only Godzilla gets Millenium era movies, because past being a time thing continuity is also a component. Heisei Godzilla movies ignore every movie except the first to start a new continuity. The first three Heisei Gamera movies are a trilogy, and Gamera the Brave (despite being a new studio) continues this thread. Which is why Gamera doesn’t get a Millenium era (which eschewed a constant continuity all together). Confused?

So with this ending of Gamera’s Showa era entries we’ll be heading into the much-loved Heisei era, generally accepted as the peak of the Gamera franchise. So with the new era we’ll be getting new continuity, back-story, powers and potentially villains. A new suit too. Should be an exciting transition.

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Harry Edmundson-Cornell is obsessed with comics and film and writing, and he fancies himself a bit of an artist. He's dabbled in freelance video production, writing, design, 3D modelling, and artistic commissions. He mainly uses Tumblr to keep track of what he's watching and reading and listening to. Occasionally he uses it to post original works. You can find his email and junk there too, if you want to hire him or send him hate-mail.

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