Monthly Music: Giant mutated creature version

After you’ve lived more of less four months and then some in the midst of uncertainty, constant renovation buzz and the skull shattering clatter it produces on top of other things, you tend to get tired. Really, really tired. This has affected the quality and quantity of this blog rather visibly. But, I aim to persist. In the end, as long as I manage to produce something, even if it is sub-par, I can always aim for higher goals in the future. While I had high hopes for myself and for last month’s Three, I feel that it lacked certain something. Sure, I had planned the DVD-BD comparison to be nothing more than a bunch of pictures, but exhaustion is a bitch. I admit, my research and arguments have been lacking, the spirit has not been there and the heart has barely beaten. My drive is somewhat lacking.

That is the very reason why this month lacked two planned things; a new ARG podcast and that planned “pilot” of sorts for voiced blogging. Hell, I was intending to do one for this, but then I realised it’s worth jack shit if my throat is coarse and I can’t get a proper sound out of me. Thank you colder nights and no heating. But, at least I managed to throw out a TSF comparison entry, and the next one of the list would be one of the three; F-18, MiG-29 or F-5 Freedom Fighter. Then we’d be finished with the derivatives from image boards.

I counted the TSF entry as mecha design. While there are numerous matters I could touch upon, the basics are essentially out there. Now would be the time I start to go into more in-depth matters, like transforming mechas. However, that is a large topic with few entry points and should be a multi-part entry. For example, Super Sentai has its own approach to transformations and combinations, different from Transfromers and Brave series. Macross has its own, as does numerous other shows. Some just make it work, some want it to be show accurate and some just have them for the sake of being cool. I may end up purchasing few books before moving onwards these entries, because in-depth is in-depth. Most of those who have read those entries most likely already have noticed that they are not intended as guides how to design with a pen, but rather to work with the ideas and groundwork designs. That of course requires reading outside the robotics field and into industrial design as a whole.

The chosen music for the month has its relevancy. Going back to the roots and creating new from the base concepts. I’ve talked this before, and I’m pretty certain all I need to do is go back on writing about video game design. This may become rather forced thing to some extent, but there are loads of games to choose from when it comes to design, whatever design element we want to talk about. I do have a discussion surrounding the revamped Pokémon designs for the upcoming Sun and Moon, using Rattata as a case study. From there I guess games are the limit, and depending how my plans go, I may end up doing a review on something PS4 related this month.

I may drop Monthly Threes for the upcoming month, unless somebody has an idea for a theme or I come up with something worthwhile. Hell, maybe the whole mecha design thing could be one, comparing three iterations of some long running franchise like Gundam and discuss the main design elements that simply will not vanish. Call it a Gundam stereotype, if you will. Another would be to cover an obscure comic creator, Ken Kawasaki, but the information I have on him is… well, all I know is that he died in a motorcycle crash at a young age in the early 1990’s, with only two books collecting his works. Information is hard to come by, even in Japanese. Then again, perhaps it would be best to stray from these obscure, somewhat hardcore products of the orient for the time being altogether  and just concentrate on things that are on the surface and still relevant. Thou I still argue that even the obscure needs to be appreciated, at least by just one other person.

Then again, I have also planned to piss off people and discuss why games are or are not art, but from the arts’ perspective, not games’ as it usually is. This may seem a bit weird, as one could assume the two are largely exchangeable, and to some extent they are. The important difference between those two is that one observes whether or not games are art from the viewpoint of outside the game industry, while the other takes the viewpoint inside the industry. Without a doubt, the one that stands outside the industry is largely the majority, as that tends to include the common consumer who may just play the occasional slots. One of the points in art is that when it’s distilled to its very core aspect, it will always end up being more than what a game would be. We’ll discuss this more down the line, perhaps this would be great as the first voiceblog entry, with sources and such cited in-text.

The main reason why such discussion still needs to be had is because electronic games culture didn’t just pop into existence when you were a child. As I went through few months back with the penny arcades entries, the prototypical era for our current game culture is well over hundred years old or more.  While literature and music are largely clearly cut forms of media, movies have had about a hundred years to mature and gain what they are, though it could be argued that its roots in theatrical arts has given it its appreciation. The same should be applied to video games, and to understand what your PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendos are all about, we need to appreciate the history they stem from. I’m sure I will echo these in the future, it just may take some time.

As for now, go listen more of Shin Godzilla‘s soundtrack. I ended up picking it up myself, even when it has something like seven different variations of Neon Genesis Evangelion‘s Decisive Battle’s drum beat.

Themes of Godzilla

Each summer I have written a long, special theme post about a topic. These have varied from Kimi ga Nozomu Eien to the history Original Video Animation. This year I present you Themes of Godzilla in celebration of the theatrical release of Shin Godzilla.

Godzilla is not one monster or theme. Throughout its 62 years run in the movies Godzilla has represented many things from atomic weapons to heroes and Japan itself. The monster is a character that has been fitted into many themes and motifs across the ages. It could be even argued that the original film, despite being the originator, was disregarded at one point in favour of something else, something that fit that particular time. As such, if one argues what Godzilla, either as a character or theme, is based on a selection of media, you can argue otherwise using different selection. After all, we are talking about a franchise that has been running for more than a half a century with almost everything but porn being in the official line up.

Before we dwell into the movies and what they represent, let’s dwell a bit into where Godzilla originates. I will also use the official English name for the character, Godzilla, all the way through the post.

While Godzilla is usually traced to the Second World War, many make the distinction of King Kong and The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms being the film inspirations. King Kong is often seen as the start of the giant-monster genre, thou The Lost World predates it almost by a decade. Nevertheless, it’s the effects and the story that people remember from King Kong, and those two were exactly the things that drove Eiji Tsuburaya into the film industry. The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms comes into play as the movie that inspired Tomoyuki Tanaka to produce a similar movie. The story is that Tanaka was to make a movie in Indonesia that would ease the relations between the countries, but his crew was turned back, denying their visas. While returning to Japan, he was reminded about The Beast from 20 000 Fathoms, and with the S.S. Lucky Dragon #5 incident still fresh in his mind, Tanaka pitched an idea based on these two elements to the producer Iwao Mori. Tanaka grabbed the director Ishiro Honda to direct the film. Despite few pre-existing scripts, one being submitted by Tsuburuya, Honda and a writer named Takeo Murata wrote the final script in three weeks.

A final person between Tanaka, Honda, Tsuburaya and Murata was Akira Ifukube, a classical composer who gave Godzilla its sound and music. Without Ifukube’s compositions, the movie would’ve lacked in sound, as each theme emphasizes doubly whatever was happening on the screen. This is to the extent that both the film and music should always be one and the same and never be seen or listened in Ifukube’s mind.

The S.S. Lucky Dragon #5 incident is what births Godzilla in the original 1954 film. The incident was USA detonating their first hydrogen bomb named Castle Bravo. It was estimated to be about four to eight megatons in yield, but proved to be fifteen megatons due to lithium-5 becoming active in the explosion.  This spread the fallout far beyond what the estimates safe zone was, and caused the crew of Lucky Dragon #5, effectively giving them lethal doses of radiation.

The final element Godzilla had is tied to the nuclear weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and probably is the most known aspect about the monster, only second to it fighting another.

Let’s start with the themes in the movies. I want to keep comment on each entry in the franchise short and to the point whenever needed. Each movie would deserve a full-fledged post to dwelve deeper into them, but currently I’m not intending to start multi-year “series” that nobody wants. We’ll leave TV-shows, games and such out from the picture for now, they’re a massive undertaking on their own as is. There is so much history in Godzilla that I can’t touch upon in this one, but maybe in future I will elaborate on certain aspects if there is interest.

Continue reading “Themes of Godzilla”

King of the Monsters

Monsters have become too cool. Many of them have always had that erotic side, but as of late it has felt that all monsters have become more or less vessels for dumbed down shit. They’ve become children’s toys. They’ve become too cool rather than something to be feared.

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I was not sold on Shin Godzilla’s look when it was first revealed. After all these years of cool Godzilla designs, I was not expecting TOHO to go back and make the King of Monsters to stand by its name. This Godzilla, headed by Hideaki Anno (for both good and bad) looks like a monster. It’s malformed, covered in keloid scarring just like the original and has those scrawny, disproportioned arms. It’s face has a twisted sort of grin with irregularly protruding teeth. Its bone structure is visible various spots, like it had lost muscle mass from certain parts of its body and is dragging them along. The way it holds its arms high up like that, never seemingly moving or extending them looks like it really can’t due to their malformation and pain involved.

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This single dot eye is not intelligent. It’s horrified and in pain. Those yellowed teeth that just grow out wherever adds to the suffering. Keloid scarring can be very, very painful and imagine if your whole body was covered in them. On top of that, that red seems like it is pulsating radioactivity all the time. Godzilla should be devastating even with its simple presence, and it would seem that Anno is not ignoring this.

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This scene sold me on the monster design

For whatever reason, this was a stopping moment for me. I have liked most Godzilla designs throughout the ages, but none of them went back to the original 1954 look.  Godzilla has gradually been redesigned to be sleeker and sleeker with more defined and heroic look to it. Heisei-era Godzilla starting with Vs. Biollante has been the iconic look for the monster for the last two and a half decades, even to a point that it has been used over the Millennium/X-series designs. This, however, is a total throwback, ignoring most if not all the grand heroic history and making him monstrous again.

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The initial image we saw of this Shin Godzilla (be it new or true) looked like it had a stupid Joker-like grin. It grew on me with time, because it’s supposed to be unsettling, but the front view of the monster doesn’t look like it’s grinning. To put it simply, it looks like a face of a monster that has gone to hell and back.

Maybe the idea of modelling Godzilla to be realistic, animal like has been the wrong step. The idea of this monster is horrible, and its visage should mirror its nightmarish status. The original Godzilla discussed how man had created technology that would devastate if not kept in check, and it feels that Anno wants to evoke that same sentiment, most likely using Fukushima accident as the springboard. As long as the movie does not begin to preach that all nuclear technology is of the devil, but how man has grown complacent and blind to both benefits and dangers of the atomic power, it’s good.

This is, without a doubt, the most horrifying depiction of Godzilla. It became a hero, then an anti-hero to whatever the Millennium/X-series directors wanted it to be; a ghost, an animal or just a fighting machine. This is me repeating it, but this is a nightmare walking on Earth.

The best part of the movie is that it combines both traditional practical effects. I’m glad to see Anno’s tendencies with tokusatsu comes through. All that said, I am holding back on everything else before I finally see the movie. Anno has a spotty track record, with Evangelion being a great piece of television while being one of the worst at the same time. The latest Rebuild movie has not been all that well received, but this is a movie he can’t fail. Not because he is infallible or anything like that, but because this is without a doubt a moment in his life that requires the best he can do, and this is once in a lifetime chance for Godzilla to be an intellectual horror movie the original was.

Against my better judgement, I am looking forwards to this movie and expecting great things from it.