It’s always interesting to see prototypes of popular ideas. For example, the first drawing of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle or Batman’s design before Bill Finger provided Bob Kane input are fascinating because they show the initial inklings of their creators’ concepts and how they later changed when becoming their final product. A short while ago, I talked about Shin Godzilla, which was the newest addition to the Godzilla franchise directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi. For those of you that are not knowledgeable on the subject, Shinji Higuchi is most well known for his breathtaking effects in the greatest set of giant monster films of all time,the Gamera Trilogy, and directing the recent Attack on Titan live action film. Hideaki Anno on the other hand is a major tokusatsu fan that is regarded as a visionary for a little anime series called Neon Genesis Evangelion. It seemed like fate that these two would meet up to create what is argued to be not only the greatest tokusatsu movie of all time, but one of the great Japanese films period. Before that, however, they came together to make a short that just oozes personality that would later be seen in Shin Godzilla: Giant God Warrior Appears In Tokyo.
Before moving forward, I vehemently urge you to watch the film as it is only ten minutes and will rock your world. There are no subtitles in the version that I have linked in, so if you can’t speak Japanese you might be lost initially. Give it a chance and I guarantee that you’ll see something that will stick with you long after you watch it. Once you’re done, mosey on down past the photo to read my thoughts on the short film.
Sweet merciful Steven Spielberg, watching countless gods rain from the sky as they wipe out the insignificant blight that is mankind from the Earth is one way to spend ten minutes. Some people just watch cat videos, but you? You saw the limitless potential of mankind decimated in a matter of minutes. I love this short because of how it plays with the idea of giant monsters and their relationship with humans. In recent years, giant monsters have been depicted as massive animals that simply do as they feel. But back in the day, as Anno and Higuchi noticed, monsters were revered more as god amongst men that were there to punish us for our misdeeds. Go watch the original 1954 Godzilla film and you’ll see the clear message of meddling with (nuclear) forces that we should have never tampered with in the first place. Even in future films that may not emphasize this aspect of the character as much, there will usually be a point made that the King of the Monsters is returning due to humanity making the same mistakes with weaponry or science again and again.
On top of this film being conceptually horrific with the countless malicious cosmic beings destroying everyone, it is also shot beautifully with a nice mixture of practical and special effects. Japan prides itself on not using CGI as their primary tool for film making, especially when it comes to their giant monster movies. But I like how the directors of the short managed to find a balance between the effects as it makes it a surreal experience for the viewer. You know what you’re looking at isn’t real since you notice the CGI effects, but the practical keep you grounded in some sense of reality. There have been plenty of arguments over the years between the wide array of effects, but I stand by the idea that both are needed to create quality visuals and, more importantly, tell effective stories.
So what major element of this short film is later built upon in Shin Godzilla? That’s easy: the idea of keeping an aura of mystique (the concept, not the X-Man) that elevates a simple giant monster to a god-like symbol that can leave a longer lasting mark with the audience. When you define the aspects of a malevolent being, there is a chance that you make it less scary since you are able to understand it on some level. A good example of this is with the constant revelations in the Alien franchise and how the more we learn about the Xenomorphs, the less intimidating they can be. This sort of happens in Shin Godzilla as the audience is informed as to where Godzilla comes from, but we never understand why the Big G does what he does. All we know is that this monster is crashing through Tokyo and will annihilate whatever comes into his path. And if you try to fight back, he will end you before you can even say: “Hey, why is that thing’s jaw unhinging?” In my opinion, seeing the God put back into Godzilla after a twelve year break (not counting the fun American film) is exactly what the franchise needed to be brought back to life.
If you like this, feel free to give Higuchi and Anno’s other works a try. I personally recommend the Gamera Trilogy and have heard great things about Neon Genesis Evangelion. If you can, try to watch other short films to see if any new great movies could come out of them. For the Legend of Zelda of fans out there, watch this creepy animation to get more chills down your spine. But if you’re looking for something to break your heart, I highly recommend this powerful short done in the spare time of Pixar employees. But I really want to hear from you, the readers. Comment below and let everyone know if you have any good recommendations for other short films worth watching.
I’ve been Superguy and you’ve been awesome!