Tonight’s Main Event: It’s Monster Madness As Mechagodzilla, Takes On Godzilla, Takes On Mothra In A Triple Threat Match For The Supreme Heavyweight Championship – Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

17 02 2016

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (Toho Co. Ltd. - 2003)

I don’t know if you watch Professional Wrestling; oh you do, OK. Well in that case, for those of you who may not watch Professional Wrestling, in Pro-Wrestling there is a kind of match called a Triple Threat Match. Now this pretty similar to a singles match, except that it involves three competing athletes instead of the usual two. It brings an extra level of tension and jeopardy to a match as the athletes have to worry about not one, but two athletes. It’s the kind of match that is not wheeled out as much as it might have done once upon a time, but imagine for a second, that there is a Triple Threat Match, and competing in it, are the three of the best Pro Wrestlers in history (something like Triple H vs Sting vs The Undertaker). Well, we have something like that here in this film, as Three of Japan’s best loved Giant Monsters fight it out in a Triple Threat Match.

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Released in 2003 by Toho, Produced by Shogo Tomiyama and Directed by Masaaki Tezuka; Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is the 28th film in the Godzilla series, and serves as a direct sequel (as in it follows where the last film left on, instead of a sequel in the generic form of just happening to be made after a film) to the previous film: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla. The film also serves as continuity to both the original Godzilla film and Mothra back in 1961. While the previous film was entirely about the confrontation between Godzilla and Mechagodzilla; this film also sees the welcome return of Mothra, whose only other appearance’s in the millennium series include Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All Out Attack and Godzilla: Final Wars (which came after this).

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Set about a year after the Events of the previous film; Mechagodzilla is undergoing repair after his confrontation with Godzilla, while Japan is rebuilding after both the fight, and Mechagodzilla’s rampage. In Karuizawa, Airman Yoshito Chujo (Noboru Kaneko) and his nephew Shun (Kenta Suga) are staying with Yoshito’s father; Dr. Shinichi Chujo (Hiroshi Koizumi). Suddenly, two tiny twin fairies (Masami Nagasawa and Chihiro Otsuka) appear to Dr. Chujo, who remembers them well, as he has met them before. The twin fairies warn the three of them, that if they do not return the original Godzilla’s bones (the same ones used to build Mechagodzilla) to the bottom of the ocean, then Mothra will declare war on the human race. Yoshito argues with them saying MechaGodzilla is Japan’s only real defense against Godzilla, but the Twin’s tell him that if they return the bones to where they belong, Mothra will take Mechagodzilla’s place. Upon returning to the base where MechaGodzilla is being rebuilt, Yoshito has mixed feelings to what he has heard. Meanwhile a new set of Mechagodzilla pilots arrive, one of whom; Azusa Kisaragi (Miho Yoshioka), is an old friend of Yoshito’s. Meanwhile, the news and press are all wrapped up in wondering why so much money is being poured into the MechaGodzilla project, especially after the robot’s accidental rampage. Back at his home; Dr. Chujo tells Shun about what how he met the twin fairies and Mothra’s attack on Tokyo back in 1961. Dr. Chujo makes an appointment to see Japanese Prime Minister Hayato Igarashi (Akira Nakao), and tells him of Mothra’s warning and that they should end the project. Out at sea, the carcass of a strange giant turtle like creature called a Kamoebas washes ashore dead, with a scar in its neck, believed to have been done by Godzilla, who is also responsible for the destruction of an American Nuclear Sub too.

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With news of Godzilla possibly heading for Japan, Mechagodzilla’s repairs are fast tracked as a new weapon is added to replace the defunct Absolute Zero weapon that was destroyed in the previous fight. Wind of Dr. Chujo’s talk with the Prime Minister reaches hot-shot pilot Kyosuke Akiba (Mitsuki Koga) who gets into a fight with Yoshito. A short time later however, Godzilla reappears, and is attacked by the military, soon landing ashore. The city is evacuated, but Shun goes missing. Dr. Chujo goes to find him at the school, where he discovers that Shun, using the tables and chairs within the school, has made the sign for Mothra in the playground. This instantly summons the appearance of Mothra who quickly sets to attacking Godzilla. Shun and Dr. Chujo run from the scene while Mothra and Godzilla engage. Mechagodzilla is ready and waiting, but the command to attack has not been given yet. On Infant Island meanwhile, the twin fairies start singing to an egg.

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Mothra begins to lose the fight. Prime Minister Igarashi gives the orders for Mechagodzilla to be launched in order to help out Mothra. Yoshito leaves the base to go and look for his father and Shun, and is given assistance by the twin fairies. Back on Infant Island, the egg hatches to twin Mothra Larvae, which then immediately head for Tokyo. Back in Tokyo, Godzilla and Mechagodzilla engage in battle with Godzilla quickly gaining an upper hand, eventually knocking out MechaGodzilla indefinitely. Yoshito finds Shun and his father, badly beaten and in desperate need of medical attention. Mothra’s twin Larva arrive and distract Godzilla, but just when it looks like they will be destroyed too, the adult Mothra jumps in the way to save them. With MechaGodzilla needing on site repairs, Yoshito volunteers to do on site repair work. With help from his crew back at the base, as well as the twin fairies, Yoshito is able to repair Mechagodzilla, but gets trapped inside. Mechagodzilla comes back online. He is soon able to get an upper hand over Godzilla, and with some help from the Twin Larvae, Godzilla is cocooned in silk. At that moment, the twin fairies singing can be heard all over the city. Yoshito hears it within Mechagodzilla, and takes it as a sign that Mechagodzilla just wants to sleep in peace. The Twin fairies declare that the bones residing within Mechagodzilla should be returned to the sea, and that humans have no right to touch the souls of the dead. Seeing Godzilla lying defenceless on the ground, Prime Minister Igarashi decides that Godzilla should be destroyed, and that then he will cancel the Mechagodzilla project. Mechagodzilla though becomes irresponsive, as the spirit of the original Godzilla wake up inside Mechagodzilla once more. Mechagodzilla wraps itself around the cocooned Godzilla, picks him up, and flies out to sea. Yoshito meanwhile is still inside but is rescued by both Azusa and Akiba. Mechagodzilla then, with Godzilla still attached dives into the ocean.

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Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S, is an interesting film with a terrific title to boot. It has a lot of interesting ideas and is backed up with lots of Giant Monster action. It’s just a shame that these ideas do not really go anywhere. The film creates ideas and interesting story points, but some of these don’t exactly start out very strong, and in the meantime, the good ones do not really go anywhere either. The film’s plot begins with the arrival of Mothra and a warning to return Godzilla’s bones to the sea. This creates a first good build-up; it’s an ultimatum, not a request; however the consequences sound rather weak. Ok, Mothra will declare war on Humanity, which it does not want; but it feels like a weak consequence, against say something like the monster within Mechagodzilla from the previous film reawakening and going on a similar rampage like it did before, or even worse. It’s not a bad idea; it just doesn’t really feel all that strong a consequence to not heeding to an ultimatum. One thing this film mentions very briefly as well is the political and financial difficulties when dealing with a project such as building a giant robotic form of Godzilla. This idea is touched upon early in the film, but for most part is just ignored…..and it’s a real shame, because it is a really cool idea. If there wasn’t a political, financial or a civilian problem to such a large-scale project, then it would seem ok just to carry on with it, but in this case, there is an overall issue from all sides. You have TV coverage on the general populations view on the financial costs of a project that is only partially successful to date. Why is it then that this side of the story does not go into as much detail? It’s not like this kind of thing has not been done before in film. Gamera 3 deals with political and civilian issues with Giant Monsters in great detail to a high level of realism, so why is it not done here? Part of me thinks this film was done at the wrong time, and that such levels of voice in a hot situation as covered here, should have been done in a film made about now. There were no international monetary problems back then, or at least as bad as they are now. If it was to have been done now, it’s a subplot that could have been weaved in beautifully? But even if it wasn’t, there is a suggestion there that is not worked on, but rather skimmed upon.

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It’s a film of missed opportunities, and one whose list sadly continues. It’s like the writing team were dipping their fingers in a tank of water. They began to submerge the tips, but did not decide to push their entire hands. It’s a film whose points and issues could have been worked on by just dipping their fingers, or even knuckles; in that little bit more. The more they would have done it the more it would have improved, and then could have sprouted out more and produced a work of art that could have found itself in close ranks with the original 1954 film. It’s not bad, just not worked on enough for it to reach the stars. Another issue I have with the film’s story is how quickly it ends. The film’s big battle reaches a climax, but then all of a sudden it just stops. A realization then suddenly hits everyone. The story of Mothra’s Fairies warning comes to a bit of light and suddenly Yoshito learns what the fairies warning was really all about. It’s a subject that should have been constantly touched upon, but is forgotten during the fight, and then suddenly everyone realizes what was really meant? I just don’t understand it. It makes me think that the writing team were running out of printer paper and just decided to end it quickly. There is no build up, or consistent mention of story plot points, or at least not enough for this ideal to change in a good way. It’s just sudden and not understandable. It then ends altogether, very quickly with a change of heart from Mechagodzilla.

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Tokyo S.O.S. does struggle with casting. For what is supposedly a follow-up to a previous film, I find it weird that while the film does feature the monsters and events, there is very little form the previous films cast of characters. I thought a follow-up would include them in a much bigger form. While the film does boast at least one major character from Against in Koh Takasugi, while also being backed up with Godzilla veterans Akira Nakao and Hiroshi Koizumi, why is it, that the lead character from Against is only in this film for less than 5 minutes. Yumiko Shaku, who played JXSDF Lt. Akane Yashiro in Against appears in about 2 scenes before bowing out for the new lead characters. Surely a direct follow-up would feature her more so why is it then that she disappears? Along with the lack of Lt. Akane are the other 2 major leads in Sara (Kana Onodera) and Tokumitsu Yuhara (Shin Takuma). Where did they go, and why aren’t they mentioned in at least some vain if not given major parts in this film? While the lack of Akane’s character in this film is a real disappointment; that’s not to say that the cast taking her place are also. Some of these characters could have been developed more, but their onscreen appearance is still pretty good and very enjoyable. Hiroshi Koizumi and Akira Nakao for instance are always good value. Koizumi who sadly passed away last year had a prolific career and recorded several major appearances in the Godzilla series. Now providing a similar role to the one he had in Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla in the 1970’s, He is as good here as he has ever been. While his role is more reliant on the past experience of his role in Mothra, his caring side for his family, plus knowledge on the situation, continue to highlight his scientific character, one that Koizumi has practically played in every Godzilla film he has appeared in. His different stance though, that of a grandfather make his role a more active one, and one that takes him into more perilous situations, including being on the ground, very near to Godzilla. These scenes with Shun are pretty good ones to look out for, very enjoyable. Akira Nakao meanwhile continues to play another strong leadership role in playing the Prime Minister. In this role he is a strong character, but also a very believable one, and looks like a real politician/prime minister. He is a very caring one, and carries a lot of weight on his shoulders and continues to battle all sides and everyone around him. His sudden change at the end is a bit swift; much like the script, but throughout he is a character to look out for.

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Alongside them, we have our many side characters. Ok, Azusa and Akiba are more up front, but don’t really have as much air time as Yoshito. Akiba is a prat, and a real one at that, but his character does have some redeeming aspects to it, and one that grows as the film carries on. While Akane might not be in it, her replacement is still very good. Azusa enters as a possible love interest to Yoshito, but becomes more of a supporter to him. It’s not till the end that more of that comes out of her, going so far to rescue him at the end of the film. Shun is a good little character for Yoshito, someone to look after and care for, and whose near death in the film creates a very powerful moment, it’s just sad that it wasn’t strung out or developed a little more. After them we have our collection of Side characters. The Shobijin (or twin fairies) are nicely done once more, but don’t really show much in the way of character other than near replicating every Shobijin performance so far. There are a lot of extra characters of note including military personal and politicians including JSDF Chief Hitoyanagi (Takeo Nakahara), General Dobashi (Koichi Ueda), one character whose name I cannot find…nor an actor’s name, but plays Akiba’s Father, and a fleeting appearance from Shun’s mother (Noriko Watanabe). After that, it really only comes down to Yoshito himself. Yoshito is a good person and a great mechanic. He takes his job seriously, and is very caring of his family. But this man is thrust into a difficult situation, as two twin fairies tell him that he needs to dump Godzilla’s bones in the ocean. This plagues his mind throughout, until eventually he learns what they really mean. They mean it not in the form of getting rid of the Japans only defence against Godzilla, but in letting the original Godzilla’s bones, and history rest in peace. He begins to understand this as the film reaches its conclusion, whereas when it first starts he does not believe that Mothra is a hero given the creature’s past, but now realises that what the twins meant is that Japan had no right to drench up a dead body and mess with its soul. Yoshito is a good lead for a film that has lost its previous main, but he is one that you want to follow, and one whose life you care about. You feel his pain, his emotions and struggle throughout, but all the while he remains strong.

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A Godzilla film though is not without its Monsters. Godzilla has changed somewhat from his previous appearance. Detail has been made to his look to include a still healing injury from the previous film. He is still though incredibly powerful, and one whose talents are on great show in this film. His merciless like domination as he kills but does not eat a giant turtle like creature, his destructive underwater power as he destroys yet another submarine in a scene that is very reminding of The Return of Godzilla and Godzilla vs King Ghidorah. Mothra is back in a much bigger way than his/her/its previous performance in GMK. Mothra is represented more as this guardian and caring creature but once again with some strict morals, as per its ideal that it is earth’s natural guardian. The representation of Mothra however I feel is that it relies too much on things Mothra did in previous films. Things such as Twins coming out of the Mothra Egg, like in Mothra vs Godzilla. Mothra does not appear to be as powerful as he/she/it can sometimes be and appears to be somewhat weaker, however, it’s early arrival, flying through the clouds and appearing on a small hill, as well as its appearance near the symbol of its calling make some really good shots though. I just don’t know however the real reason for Mothra’s inclusion in this film, it just does not really appear to fit. It seems more like a small part, like Baragon had in GMK. The lack of strong powers really helps this point, as it seems to be a bit weaker in comparison. Despite this though, it’s always fun to see Mothra in a film, and whose appearance adds an extra level of taste, if not much spicy. Mechagodzilla seems to have changed some level despite it supposedly being a follow-up. In Against, Mechagodzilla was constantly being referred to as Kiryu, a name which I rather like, but now Kiryu has just gone and has been replaced by Mechagodzilla, so it’s all rather confusing. Mechagodzilla is of course being repaired, and scenes from with-in the factory floor, plus its launch are really well made scenes. What I don’t get with it this time though is why the sudden change of heart? In Against, he gets mad and goes on a rampage, now he has a sudden change of heart ad decides to go back to where it belonged? Why is it that it did not want to do that in the first film, why now? What has changed? It is talked about in a form that suggests that it was ok fighting for humanity, but now it does not want to. Something has definitely happened in between the two films that are not getting explained here. It’s just further questions, as all of a sudden; Mechagodzilla has become nearly a different monster. Despite all those points though, he still looks as good as he did in the previous film. This form of Mechagodzilla is definitely my favourite (preferably with the name Kiryu, I just rather like it, it’s a cool name), plus his appearance in this film comes with a much more sinister look.

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One way the film really struggles though with its monsters is the detail of the special effects aimed towards them. Now while the CGI may not be all that great in spots, as this series was built on its pioneering and experienced use of monster suits, I can look over that. It’s more in the suits that this film starts to fail. When an effect is done properly, as in it is worked on hard enough to create the right effect, it is something that as an audience member you don’t necessarily care about while watching the film, as the real looking effect grabs your attention and draws you more into the story. With films like this, one of the things that helps is that because it is a suit, it’s easier to have something look real, as there is actually something real standing in the foreground, instead of having to act or create around something that is not originally there. Suit acting therefore helps with the effect in one important way, that it’s real because it is. As the Millennium series has progressed, more has been done to incorporate suitmation into other forms of special effect creation to create more outstanding moments; an example of this being in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, when Godzilla first rises out of the sea above an Aquarium.

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It’s a fantastic shot, and real work has gone in to make Godzilla look both Authentic and Real. When we come to this film though, most of that seems to have been thrown out of the window. In the previous film, Godzilla looked Authentically Real, here; I can look at Godzilla and instantly tell it’s a suit. A level of reality has been thrown out the window, and it does put me off. There are scenes when shots are done properly to make it look as real and astonishing as possible, such as Godzilla walking through a building site, a Fantastic Shot in its own right, but then it cuts to a suit walking through an obviously fake town. The realism is gone, and it is a detracting thing from this film, as it just sort of looks bad; and it’s not just restricted to Godzilla neither. Mechagodzilla and Mothra suffer from this too. Not necessarily Adult Mothra as it has some good scenes such as on-top of the hill and above the school, but more the larvae. The larvae have some nice added bit of detail, and the shots of them crawling round the town are pretty cool, it’s more how much use is made of solid colouring and no real form of shading, they look absolutely solid if it wasn’t for the little added bits of movement around their heads. Mechagodzilla meanwhile has lost some life in his look, and the effect of him looks pretty similar to Godzilla, in that he looks like an obvious suit. It’s a real shame considering the effects of the film before it, but S.O.S. has its moments; mostly from uses of cinematography, such as capturing moments where Godzilla rises out of the sea, Mothra over the school, and Mechagodzilla knocked out on the floor and having people scrambling over him.

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It’s sounding like this is a bad film doesn’t it? It sounds like a film of missed opportunities raising more questions than delivering answers, not providing much in the special effects department and kicking actors out the door. But don’t think that means I don’t like it; because I do. It does have its problems and moments, but for all the things that near disappoint, something pops along which nearly makes up for it. The film’s monster battles contain a few continuity errors, and while it starts out nice and fast, action packed – it does begin to slow down and come to a crawl before eventually just stopping and ending on a weird note. However, when the action is nice and fast, it’s really good and at its best. It’s not too fast neither. Monster battles at speed are always good, but when going to fast just look bad, however in this, they go at a good speed and continue at relative pace for some time, making up for some of the early on monster disappointment, especially when Mechagodzilla is turned on. The film’s miniatures and set pieces are near to perfection, with special note going to the factory floor for Mechagodzilla, as well as his eventual launch. The city destruction scenes are really good, and as well are the scenes of people running away. They are scenes which are frequent of any monster movie for that matter; but these ones are done really well and add their own level of character too. Even the deserted city streets and inside the Tokyo Tower look really good. A lot of work has been put in to make this film as good as it can be no matter what, and it has worked. And while the story has its issues, it also has its moments. From scenes like the near death of Shun, to the scenes inside military command centres. But above all else is the after credits scene (which I might explain in a later post). To back all this up you have film extras who work really hard to make sets believable, but also, let’s not forget the film’s soundtrack, once again composed by Michiru Oshima.

The soundtrack itself is about the same as it were for Against, but with some pieces getting more attention than others. Yes there are new ones, but these take more of a sombre note rather than a militaristic theme like in Against and Megaguiras. These range from the ending credits, to Shun’s near Death. Weaved in is some more heroic pieces for characters like Mechagodzilla, plus scenes towards the end. All the while continuing to incorporate the soundtrack from the previous film, oh and of course, the sounds and songs of Mothra. It’s a nice soundtrack, and though while it may not standout like it did for Against, it’s one that works for the occasion. Oshima still continues to provide for the series in her own way, and one that continues to produce no matter what the outcome of the film turns out to be; creating in the process some of the most memorable pieces in the series to date.

Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. in the end is a really nice film. It is a nice enjoyable film combining the things we have come to love in the series while also continuing to create new ideas and moments. While some of its story, characters and even monsters do struggle with the films over broad and under developed points; it provides enough to get you thinking. While maybe not explored in-depth or enough to satisfy completely, there is enough to enjoy. While in its failings it does cause more questions to be asked than answers given, it provides enough to be enjoyed with for now, until something comes along to improve on them. Bolstering meanwhile good cast, monsters, soundtrack, effects, scenes, post credit scene and of course a brilliant title; Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. is definitely worth the time and money to watch, and when looking past it’s issues, provides an enjoyable entry to the series and one that every Monster Movie fan should see.

GENEPOOL (It’s not really a Triple Threat Match thinking about it, more of a handicap match, but with some moral issues between 2 members of the opposing team).

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