“God Warrior Appears in Tokyo” & The Significance of Japanese Giant Monsters

I’ve been awaiting the day I could watch this. The true pedigree of this short film is intimidating. Written and commissioned by Hideaki Anno, directed by Shinji Higuchi and creature design by one of my absolute favorite artists, Takayuki Takeya. These prominent names worked together on a short film, involving one of the most beloved property of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Nausicaä  of The Valley of The Wind”.

Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo by shigure_souma

At a cursory glance and with a lack of Japanese lingual skills, many may simply fall short of digesting its true intent. Miyazaki’s classic manga and film focused heavily on natural disaster, in relation with the complacency of man. It is absolutely incredible for this theme to be picked up and carried on by Hideaki Anno (who himself had his start impressing Miyazaki and animating a key sequence in Nausicaä). This short film carries in itself a big legacy.

The short film focuses on Ghibli’s “God Warrior” from “”Nausicaä  of The Valley of The Wind”, the creatures who caused radiation poisoning and cause destruction with their atomic blasts. In context, while this short film is a celebration of the tokusatsu genre and traditions, I believe it is also a commentary on Japan’s nuclear reactor crisis. This sentiment and symbolism has a shared history, considering the close ties between Studio Ghibli and Gainax’s founding members.

Hideaki Anno commissioned this film, in junction with a museum exhibit that celebrated the tokusatsu genre, where visitors can walk through replicas of cities, as if they were a giant hero or monster themselves. Directed by Shinji Higuchi, assistant director in the legendary “Wings of Honneamise”, writer of the infamous “End of Evangelion” and a man who’s also familiar with live-action special effects (Gamera among many). It is of nostalgic note, that Hideaki Anno animated the famous, original sequence in “Nausicaä  of The Valley of The Wind”, where God Warrior awakens.

It is only appropriate that he re-awakens God Warrior in this fashion and time. This short film has seemingly plenty to say about Japan and its complicated relationship with overwhelming forces: the devastating earthquake and the consequent nuclear reactor crisis.

While global pop culture and Saban has misled many into regarding anything Japanese with giant monsters as no more than a Power Rangers/Godzilla joke of the week, I’m glad such world-renowned, accomplished Japanese creators are standing tall and taking pride in this craft. It’s a testament to how all-encompassing entertainment art can be.

People should remember that the giant monster – kaiju genre has a very meaningful and dark origin, as entertaining as giant monsters are. Godzilla was made only a few years after Hiroshima. Giant monsters, when done right, are the embodiment of incontrollable disasters, whether natural or man-made.

The other notable artist tasked with redesigning Hayao Miyazaki’s “God Warrior” is one of my absolute, favorite artists of any era, Takayuki Takeya. He’s an artist’s artist, his work is appreciated by top sculptors in various art fields world-wide (Shiflett Bros, Simon Lee kaiju designer for Del Toro’s Hellboy and Pacific Rim) , Nike’s CEO Mark Parker (who’s a huge fan and has commissioned work to be part of Nike artshows), famous writer Michael Morcook (who stated that Takeya’s sculpt of Amano’s rendition of his character, stands alongside his art noveau and art deco collection) and dedicated model kit and toy collectors everywhere (me). It will take me several blog posts to explain why Takeya is a master redesigner. He takes the source material, studies them and imbues them with a new life while staying faithful. His redesigns never contradict, they’re always a natural, awe-inspiring evolution of the source.

This is perhaps the bleakest, most artistically accomplished, public service announcement about the seemingly gigantic, larger-than-life dangers that a peaceful, modern, first-world city can still face in its way of life. It’s even more poignant that these godly creatures in the short film, are man-made, sculpted to look as natural as possible. How fortunate that we can also enjoy them as creative products.

I hope the powers that be will see that this excellent short film gets a wide release.

Much thanks to my companions, especially fellow big-time Takayuki Takeya fan, Richmond Chaisiri who constantly entertain my ramblings about monsters.

Posted Thursday, April 25th, 2013 under Artists, Film.

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