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Shin Godzilla (2016, Japan)

Shin Godzilla (2016) Theatrical Poster

Once I heard the news that the new Japanese Godzilla film was going to be playing in my city, I was overjoyed. Ever since I was a child, I have always loved Godzilla. I went into Shin Godzilla very excited to see how my favorite giant monster was going to be reimagined.

Shin Godzilla (also Godzilla Resurgence) is the latest installment and 31st film in the Godzilla franchise. Produced by Toho, this film is a reboot in which Godzilla’s origin story is retold in modern Japan. The film was written and directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi.

“A god incarnate. A city doomed.”

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Ringu and Hausu Japanese Horror Double Bill at Liverpool Small Cinema

Small Cinema Liverpool - Ringu + Hausu - Japanese Horror Double Bill

In the United Kingdom, Liverpool Small Cinema presents an iconic Japanese horror double bill: Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998) and Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Hausu (1977).

“To try and narrow down a selection of Japanese horror films, which cover all things psychological, supernatural, explicit and mythological, is no easy task however, so we felt that the programme would need to reflect the full scale of myths, folk and ghost tales that have dominated Japanese culture for centuries.”

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Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 (1987, Japan)

Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01 (1987) Promotional Poster

Animated by Hideaki Anno, Metal Skin Panic MADOX-01’s plot centers on Koji, an engineering student who accidentally discovers the Madox-01; a heavy mechanised, armoured exoskeleton. This military weapon, successor to the Madox-00, is equipped with a large array of weaponry and was designed to fight against heavy armoured vehicles. Glancing through the conveniently included instruction manual, Koji climbs into the Madox-01 exoskeleton.

“I…I’m not ready yet!”

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Japanese Animation: A Worldwide Culture

Devilman: The Birth (1987)Japanese anime has become a global worldwide culture for many reasons. Becoming popular in Japan after the second world war, anime provided an alternative format for storytelling. The common misconception in the west is that animation is primarily aimed towards the children, but this is not the case in Japan.

“For most Japanese consumers of anime, their culture is no longer a purely Japanese one (and indeed it probably hasn’t been for over a century and a half). At least in terms of entertainment, they are as equally interested by Western cultural influences as they are by specifically Japanese ones.”

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Ran (1985, Japan / France)

Ran (1986) Theatrical PosterKurosawa’s epic movie Ran is a cinematic masterpiece that has survived the test of time. Dazzling cinematography on the mountain slopes and volcanic plains of Kyushu and spectacular battle scenes earned Kurosawa a Best Director Oscar nomination and made Ran the most expensive Japanese movie ever produced.

One of the elements that makes the film so compelling, is the skill with which Kurosawa remodels Shakespeare’s King Lear to Japanese legend…

“In a mad world only the mad are sane.”

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The Hunger Games vs. Battle Royale

Battle Royale (2000)

My impression on first hearing about the hugely popular [young adult] book trilogy (and now mega money-making feature-film franchise) The Hunger Games was: ‘Hey, teenage contestants forced to fight to the death in a populist amusement engineered by a manipulative, despotic master of a dystopian future world? Wow, what an interesting idea! …But wait, isn’t that just like…’

“Life is a game. So fight for survival and see if you’re worth it.”

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7 Must-See Modern Japanese Horror Movies

Battle Royale (2000)

Battle Royale (2000): Enforcing the terms of the new ‘Battle Royale Act’ one class of ninth-grade students is selected annually by lottery and relocated to an isolated island, fitted with explosive collars, given random weapons and forced to participate in a 3-day survival competition in which the last student left alive is the winner.

“There’s a way out of this game. Kill yourselves together…here…now. If you can’t do that, then don’t trust anyone… just run.”

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Dark Cinema: Horror from Japan and Korea

Ju-on: The Grudge (2002)

When a new era of Asian horror films entered mainstream Western cinema with Hideo Nakata’s ‘The Ring’, Asian horror movies were soon perceived to be chasing Hollywood’s more hackneyed horror efforts into the shadows.

“This kind of thing… it doesn’t start by one person telling a story. It’s more like everyone’s fear just takes on a life of its own.”

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Kaiju Neutral Alignment (Part IV: A Personal Godzilla)

Kaiju Neutral Alignment

“As I watched the World Trade towers collapse on September 11, I felt guilty. The scene looked similar to those that had entertained me in many Godzilla films. But it wasn’t a fantasy, the people were real, and their fear and suffering were heartbreaking.”

Over the years Godzilla has changed roles significantly from once being the ultimate threat to Japan, to now being Japan’s protector. One could believe that this change was made to make the monster appeal to a broader audience resulting in much larger profits for the studio or perhaps it is the result of the fears Japan once had post-war becoming less and less significant?

Is the fascination in Japanese culture for science fiction Kaiju films and its symbolism born from the fears of nuclear war?

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Kaiju Neutral Alignment (Part III: Looking upon an Entire Empire)

Kaiju Neutral Alignment

How can we understand Japan’s mindset after World War II? How did they really feel after the atomic bombings and their subsequent defeat? Was any blame placed upon a particular nation, including their own, for how the war ended?

Every culture has it’s fears… Godzilla itself is a creation born from the fears of another future nuclear disaster. Modern technology of the time created nuclear weapons and from these nuclear weapons came Godzilla! Tom Miller believes however that through the film’s inherent symbolism Godzilla represents more than just the atomic bombing of Japan. In his article “Struggling With Godzilla: Unraveling the Symbolism in Toho’s Sci/Fi Films” Tom states: “In the movie they made, Godzilla represents more than the A-Bomb; Godzilla is the United States itself”, but didn’t the United States have a motive for the atomic bombings? Godzilla needed no motive… Just the animalistic desire to survive.

Is the fascination in Japanese culture for science fiction Kaiju films and its symbolism born from the fears of nuclear war?

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Kaiju Neutral Alignment (Part II: Fandom from an Academic Viewpoint)

Kaiju Neutral Alignment

William Tsutsui is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Kansas, an author of many books on Japanese history and a life-long fan of the mutant lizard having authored “Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters” (First published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2004).

Published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of GodzillaGodzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters” discusses how it grew into a global phenomenon thus exploring the monster’s lasting cultural impact on Japan, the United States and the rest of the world whilst a video entitled “Godzilla and Post-War Japan” uploaded onto the web for UCTV (University of California Television) presented Professor William Tsutsui arguing that the evolution of Godzilla, throughout it’s many films, reflects the social and political changes of post-war Japan and Godzilla’s lasting cultural impact on the world.

Is the fascination in Japanese culture for science fiction Kaiju films and its symbolism born from the fears of nuclear war?

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Kaiju Neutral Alignment (Is Godzilla truly the King of the Monsters?)

Kaiju Neutral Alignment

After World War II Japan’s economy made one of the most remarkable recoveries in the history of the modern world.

Arguably one of their most vital post war recoveries was that of their film industry and by 1953, the industry had entered its Golden Age.

This study of Japanese culture looks at the fascination Japanese audiences have for the symbolism found in these science fiction Kaiju movies. Are they just presented as brainless entertainment or are they born from an ingrained fear that their could perhaps be another disaster like the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the future?

Is the fascination in Japanese culture for science fiction Kaiju films and its symbolism born from the fears of nuclear war?

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