Masokaiju Tendencies: Those American Godzilla Movies

Godzilla is a metaphor for the atomic bomb in a film from Japan, a country struck with the atomic bomb by America, so when Godzilla shows up in America, how do you want me to take that? Hollywood has a concise answer: “I don’t give a shit.” A seemingly inevitable statement made as consequence of international intertextuality is forfeited upon the altar of I don’t know what. Three American Godzilla movies have been released so far, and I understand this to be a controversial statement, so I apologize in advance, but none of them have been good. Granted, Godzilla movies are usually not good, but this is different. At least, I think it is. … More Masokaiju Tendencies: Those American Godzilla Movies

Your Guide to the Politics of Shin Godzilla

I’d wanted to write this story about a giant monster attack and realized I didn’t know how it would play out, point by point. Which government organization would do what, at what moment? Who are the key people? And then it struck me, with the power of discouragement: that story already exists, and it’s one of my favorite movies, Shin Godzilla. So onto the shelf that story went, but the question stuck: what would have to happen if a giant monster attacked? I imagined there’d be a treasure trove of resources for “speculative crisis management” or something like that, but maybe some things are too silly even for the Internet. We’ll have to go straight to the source: how do co-directors Shinji Higuchi and Hideaki Anno answer this question? A closer look at the bureaucratic drama of Shin Godzilla might help us understand their political critique. … More Your Guide to the Politics of Shin Godzilla

2009: Lost Memories

By the time 2009: Lost Memories exposes itself in the final third, forgoing language and subtlety for foaming rabid nationalism, there may be a sense of relief, as its interpretation of the police procedural was laborious: a mystery unfolding poorly. This is an alternate history action-thriller which posits that Germany, not Japan, was hit by the atomic bomb, and as a consequence, Korea was never liberated. In the present day of near-future 2009, the “Japanese Bureau of Intelligence,” or JBI, battles an underground Korean terrorist cell in what would’ve been Seoul, digging up old ghosts for ethnically Korean agent Masayuki Sakamoto. … More 2009: Lost Memories

Audition | Scariest of All Time?

There was this TV special that aired on Bravo in 2004 called The 100 Scariest Movie Moments, and the number 11th most scary moment came from this movie called Audition. You had these talking heads, including three American filmmakers: John Landis, Eli Roth, and Rob Zombie, and they’re going on about how disturbing this movie was. Landis found it so unsettling he didn’t even like it. This is still profound to me. First of all, there’s no better word of mouth for a horror movie, I think, but more than that, I boyishly appreciate this very open appreciation by Americans of foreign cinema — I’ll take that anywhere I can get it. So cool did I find it, it must have rattled around in my brain for long enough that I turned it into an issue. Wait a minute, why this one? What makes Audition different? … More Audition | Scariest of All Time?

Zeiram 2

With genre storytelling especially, there’s a useful distinction between episodes of a film series and those of a television show. The production gap is certainly greater in film, even over television seasons, but with it comes a broader sense of returning. When tuned right, this feeling can be profound, even melancholy or nostalgic: a reflection of life itself, ever churning forward in episodes of our own. So it is, too — profound — with Zeiram 2, a movie where sometimes characters teleport, and sometimes they don’t. This 1994 follow-up to our first Terminator-style alien mash captures the joy of sequels, being as excited in its presentation as I am watching it. It’s been three years since Iria, Teppei, Kamiya, and Bob escaped the Zone, and our reacclimation to their lives brings gentle revelations. Ever the aliens themselves, Teppei and Kamiya have not been ranting and raving about outer dimensions, discredited as quacks like Dr. Ian Malcolm between Jurassic Park and The Lost World. However, their friendship is feeling the slight strain of age, and this is first among the subtle departures Zeiram 2 takes from the original. I suppose what they have is indeed a friendship, and that also extends to Iria. With so much of their character left undefined as a result of their habitual strangeness, I never thought to apply a term like that. As soon as it materializes, it’s at stake. … More Zeiram 2

Ghost in the Shell | 5 Essential Elements

Call me a romantic if you must, but I’m one of those people who believes in the one. If you find yourself at a loss out in the dating circle, take heart: there is a perfect match for everyone. I know that because I found Ghost in the Shell, and I hope you can be even half as happy as we are. For me, Ghost in the Shell is electric to the touch. The premise of the world, and the perspectives through which we engage in that world make for the most stimulating meditations on human nature, on existence itself, building toward spectacular releases in mind-bending action. This is thought-provoking science-fiction, one of the quintessential anime, period. The arrival of any new installment in this media franchise which has spanned manga, film, television, books, and video games means that so much is again possible as we return to such a richly-imagined world. But it’s also a moment where I reflect on what makes a good Ghost in the Shell? What are the fundamentals that I’d like to see reembodied each time, so to speak? Now ideally, a top five listicle like what follows is more of a celebration than a list of demands, but I think outlining what I most appreciate and look for in Ghost in the Shell will help me evaluate what comes next. … More Ghost in the Shell | 5 Essential Elements

Zeiram

Zeiram is a film of details. Necessarily so; the big picture is murky, with its strange plot and stranger circumstances. The mystery of Iria: Zeiram the Animation, or at least, the mystery of its awkward title, terminates here, in a live-action Japanese science-fiction film from 1991. It’s directed by Keita Amemiya, and I’ve long wondered the how and why of this man. What market granted passage to the wellspring of his imagination? It remains a mystery to me even after watching the film, which offers no clear rationale for its existence and yet exists so loudly. All of its details, whether protagonist Iria’s braids which have cultural meaning or every gun and piece of armor that’s associated with a proper noun, seem to be shouting a franchise into being. On closer inspection however, these details are also shouting in a strange, wonderful language, and this might be its downfall. In total, there are two Zeiram features, a six-episode OVA (the Animation), and a PlayStation video game. As soon as it arrived, it was gone, and all follow-up questions went with the solar wind. … More Zeiram