"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Godzilla 'Toho Champion Matsuri' Perfection"


Spectacular cover for "the" book on the Godzilla films of the '70s!

Finally, the release of a new photo-filled publication, spotlighting the Big G's heroic exploits from 1969-1975, will hit the shelves of Japanese booksellers on November 18th. After months of waiting, the juggernaut imprint, Kadokawa Publishing, has just released the cover and samples from this eagerly-awaited, 176-page tome on the oft glossed-over period of Godzilla's cinematic history.

Sample page of GODZILLA'S REVENGE (Oru Kaiju Daishingeki, 1969).

The "Toho Champion Matsuri" (or festival) were a series of kiddie matinee packages, comprising a feature film and short subjects (episodes of live action and animated teleseries), answering rival Toei's seasonal "Cartoon Festivals." The inaugural program featured Ishiro Honda's MARCH OF THE MONSTERS (released in the US as Godzilla's Revenge and All Monsters Attack) on December 10, 1969.

Sample page of GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (Gojira tai Gaigan, 1972).

The following Champion Festivals included digest versions of the 1960s Godzilla films, with one all-new production per year, geared squarely at children. The exception to this rule was Ishiro Honda's GIANT MONSTERS OF THE SOUTH SEAS (known in the US as Yog, Monster from Space and Space Amoeba), a tribute to the late Eiji Tsuburaya recalling Toho's glory days, released on August 1, 1970.

GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (Gojira tai Mekagojira, 1974).

The new series, depicting the Big G as a decidedly heroic defender of the Earth, began in earnest on July 24, 1971, with Yoshimitsu Banno's trippy GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (released in the US as Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster). The next original feature was Jun Fukuda's far more conventional GODZILLA VS. GIGAN (released in the US as Godzilla on Monster Island), on March 12, 1972.

Sections on each of the festivals including promotional materials.

Jun Fukuda's next creature feature, unleashed on March 17, 1973, solidified the Big G's mantle as a kaiju superhero in GODZILLA VS. MEGALO (released in the US as Godzilla vs. Megalon), teaming up in this outlandish, live action cartoon adventure, with an Ultraman-like automaton: Jet Jaguar (or should his name be romanized as "Jet Jaeger"?). Then, our hero faced his bionic double — from space!

Over seven interviews with cast members including Tomoko Ai.

Arguably one of the best rivals created during this period was the centerpiece of Toho's 20th Anniversary Big G actioner, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA (released in the US as Godzilla vs. Bionic Monster and Godzilla vs. Cosmic Monster) on March 21, 1974. While a more straight-faced production than MEGALO, the space titanium terror would return for a rematch staged by Ishiro Honda.

Special interviews with staff personnel including Teruyoshi Nakano.

Honda's MECHAGODZILLA STRIKES BACK (released in the US as Terror of Godzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla) on March 15, 1975 was a fitting swan song for the flagging series, stymied by stiff television competition, which was deluged in free kaiju programming. Even though Honda's film harkened back to the glory days of the 1960s, it was too little, too late. The Big G went on vacation.

Archival interviews with late staff personnel including Ishiro Honda.

By 1975, the Champion Festivals had gone from seasonal to annual programs which only showcased revivals of the classic films through 1978 (including one Disney line-up featuring Peter Pan in 1976 and a double feature of Latitude Zero and Mothra in 1977), ending with an uncut reissue of Honda's 1957 classic, THE EARTH DEFENSE FORCE (released in the US as The Mysterians) on March 18, 1978.

Detailed overviews of four unmade Champion Festival Godzilla films.

While there have been several in-depth, historical overviews of the Big G's cinematic history, most revere the early, and more favored, films of Honda and Tsuburaya, with cursory coverage of the '70s entries. Now, we've got an entire book devoted to them in minutia; a veritable, "Everything You Wanted to Know About the '70s Godzilla, But Were Afraid to Ask" (well, if you can read Japanese, that is)!

So, if you've seen or own Kadokawa's previous publications of "Heisei Godzilla Perfection" or "Heisei Gamera Perfection", you know how good this one is going to be (jammed with amazing photographs and measuring 11.3"x 8.3"). Fortunately, you don't need to live in Tokyo to get one — pre-order your own copy of "Godzilla 'Toho Champion Matsuri' Perfection" direct from Amazon Japan for only $36.08!

You'll thank me later. You're welcome.


St. Paco said...

Thanks in advance.

August Ragone said...

You're welcome, St. Paco!