The King (of the Monsters) and I – Pt. 1

What’s good, everyone. I’m Joshua Evo, and I’m a Godzilla fan.

I’m sure you’re thinking something along the lines of “Well DUH”, what with all of the posts raving about the movies, video games, toys and collectibles. It’s not just here on the blog either. Within my circles of friends, family and even acquaintances, I’ve become practically synonymous with Godzilla, yet I’ve never really talked too often about how this whole thing started, where it’s taken me and more importantly, what it means to and evokes in me. Why am I choosing to talk about it now of all times? With the 60th anniversary of the character having just passed, there have been a number of huge developments and announcements in the world of Godzilla just in the past few weeks, and in thinking about it and taking it all in, I realized that the hype I’m feeling isn’t one that I thought I would ever experience at an age where I’d be old enough to appreciate it. So apologies for how “feelsy” and LONG this entry could potentially get, but I gotta tell my story… and what better place than here.

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And maybe here. Whichever really.

Godzilla stomped onto the silver screen in 1954, 27 years before I was born. He was a cinematic symbol of the horrors of nuclear warfare that Japan had suffered in World War II, and was a force of nature and larger than life character from the very beginning. By the time I was born, the first series series of films (more on that later) had long since come to an end, buta few scattered movies would run from time to time on syndicated TV, and I fondly remember the first time that Godzilla and I crossed paths. I was playing with the TV remote control and came across a preview on our local TV station, KTVU. The station announcer talked about “a destructive force of nature returning to Japan”. I wasn’t really paying attention to it because it was just another commercial, but then I just happened to look up and I saw an image that completely captivated me and is burned into my memory to this day.

2unws48

The beginning.

 

At the end of the preview, the announcer said “Saturday at 2 o’clock PM. I legitimately asked my parents to teach me how to tell time so that I wouldn’t miss this. Sure enough, I learned REAL quick, and that Saturday, I was parked in front of my TV with my bologna sandwich and Capri Sun and ready to see what this whole thing was all about. Keep in mind that I was a little boy in the ’80s, which generally meant two things: you couldn’t get me to sit still if your life depended on it, and dinosaurs were the coolest thing on Earth. Godzilla 1985 hooked me did the impossible and rooted me in place because he didn’t look like any dinosaur i’d ever seen in a book. At the time, all of my TV/Video exposure to dinosaurs had been via documentaries or old movies where the “dinosaurs” either confined to some jungle far away from humanity, or were lizards wearing fins. This was no documentary. This beast was stomping around a modern-day major city and wasn’t flinching in the face of tanks, jets, missiles or freaking lasers. I thought that he had reached the pinnacle of awesome, but he had one more trick up his sleeve.

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It’s on now!

BLUE FIRE! HE SPITS BLUE FIRE FROM HIS MOUTH! That was it for me. I had to find more of these movies. I knew that if something was this awesome, there had to be more of it… and hopefully on video because if anything, watching Godzilla 1985 all those years ago made me really grow to hate commercials. While my parents got really tired of the whole “he’s really into dinosaurs” thing, my Dad always kept an eye out for Godzilla movies when he would take his weekly trips to the video store. One day, he came home from work with dinner and brought me a little present, a rented copy of Godzilla vs. Monster Zero. You’ve never seen a kid complete his homework so quickly in your life. After homework was done and little Evo had taken his bath for the night, it was time for the monster mash. Monster Zero was a whole other ball game to me, as it took the Godzilla I knew from repeated TV viewings of Godzilla 1985 and turned him not only into what almost seemed like a good guy, but also introduced me to the whole idea of monsters fighting one another. I remember being more entertained by Monster Zero, as it was less dark and the action scenes with the monsters were very lively and entertaining.

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Also, this.

With my dad’s help, I raided several video stores and found more and more of these Godzilla films, but so few of them were available to me that I ran through them fairly quickly. On top of that, as I progressed further into primary school, my interests and hobbies took me further away from Godzilla. My school chums were into things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers so naturally, so was I. Yet, the center of my rapidly growing toy collection was always the 13 inch tall Imperial Godzilla. It’s like he was waiting for me to inevitably find my way back home, as it were. When I entered 5th grade, a Blockbuster Video opened up in my fairly small town. Dad and I immediately paid it a visit and walked around looking at the “vast” selection it offered, as most of the video stores in our area were small mom-and-pop places. I rounded the corner into the Sci-Fi/Horror section and spotted some of the usual Godzilla movies that I had seen before. Then, I looked a little harder and came across Godzilla vs. Gigan and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. For me this was huge, because Gigan and Mechagodzilla had a small red banner in the corner of the box art that said “Never before released in the U.S. I brought these to dad and he asked me point blank “you still watch these Godzillas?” I nodded frantically and before I knew it we were leaving with both of them. I was also eager to see these movies, since I was and still am an avid gamer, and was playing the Godzilla NES game. Having only seen Gigan in action in Godzilla vs. Megalon, I’d never seen him use the chest buzzsaw attack that gave me so much trouble in the games. Maybe now I would finally get my chance to see it in action?

AAH! TAKE IT BACK! TAKE IT BACK!

AAH! TAKE IT BACK! TAKE IT BACK!

 Right after this gorefest, I popped in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. I had already seen Terror of Mechagodzilla numerous times, and was always really confused by the opening sequence where footage of Godzilla battling Mechagodzilla was running in the background of the credits. Turns out that all of those scenes came from this movie. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla will also go down in my personal history as the movie that duped the ever-loving crap out of me. When Godzilla first appears, it appears to be a return to his villain ways, as he’s trashing the landscape and in general, being a complete jerk. I was a pretty sharp kid when it came to these movies though, and noticed that the roar, color of the atomic ray and even the sound of the ray were all wrong. Clued me in even more after Angilas made another appearance and attacked Godzilla rather than ran with him, only to have his jaw given the old “King Kong T-Rex treatment.”

Damn. Poor bastard just can't catch a break, can he?

Damn. Poor bastard just can’t catch a break, can he? Or he catches too many? Either way, OW.

This film also introduced me to King Seesar (or Shisa, because translations), a particularly awesome, but lazy monster, as he doesn’t seem to want to do anything until you present his statue in the right place and sing to him. This particular movie was very well-paced and that lively soundtrack is something that sticks with me even now. Seriously, “The Appearance of Mechagodzilla” track is my “wake the hell up” alarm. At this point however, I had exhausted my resources and had pretty much seen all the Godzilla I could get my hands on. Dad and I found Godzilla vs. Biollante some time later at an indie video store a few towns over, which was one I actually remember not liking it too much as a kid. It’s definitely gotten better with age (mine) though, and quickly became my favorite of the Heisei series. “The what? you ask? Oh, I’m getting to that. Fast forward a few years and I’m in High School. The whole Godzilla thing, while still a part of me, had lessened considerably in favor of things like hormones and pretending to like things I didn’t to fit in. Just like as he had been on the screen, The Big G had been put on hiatus in my life… that is until I went to the library one fateful afternoon to study for something or the other,  and came across something that put me right back in the game.

Take a look, it's in a book.

Take a look, it’s in a book.

Why was Godzilla blue? Is that some toy I’d never heard of, because he looks completely different than I remembered. Full disclosure, I almost didn’t even pick this book up because I figured I’d seen all the movies, so what was I going to learn that I didn’t already know. Heh. One of the big lessons I learned from this book was the eras of films, which incidentally became my first lesson into the lexicon of true Godzilla fandom. At the time, there were two series of Godzilla films. The first “Showa” series, which included the films that ran from 1954 – 1975 and took its name from the reign of Emperor Hirohito. The newer series was referred to as the “Heisei” series. This era of films ran from 1984 – 1995 and took its name from the beginning of the reign of Hirohito’s son, Akihito. This incredible book while informative and awesome, simultaneously infuriated me because it turns out that not ONLY were the Heisei Godzilla movies made in Japan, but they were released ONLY there. What the hell?! Suffice it to say, I became determined to find out as much as I could about these movies, especially the one where Godzilla officially DIES? Luckily, this was the late ’90s, and I had a young, but powerful new tool at my disposal.

Actual 1998 photo

Actual 1998 photo

Oh yeah. Tt was time to go cyber-hunting, and this renewed journey into the Kingdom of the King of the Monsters would be the one that cemented his place in my life forever. However, that is a tale for another day… 

— Evo out… for now

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