Following up on part one, here’s (Dark Horse Comics Manga editor) Carl Horn’s follow-up to yesterday’s discussion. For context, my comments on the films (debatable) connection to Mamoru Oshii are reproduced below in italics.
Shin Godzilla’s plot device of the missing scientist “Goro Maki” leaving clues from beyond the grave reminds me of other off-stage, disembodied characters that periodically appear in anime, like the various puppet masters in the Ghost in the Shell series or the ghostly terrorists in the Patlabor films. They make me think of absentee fathers or distant trickster gods that cannot be understood or defeated by conventional means (in Hollywood movies, these types usually get punched out by the hero at the end of act three). Where does this archetype come from?
The Last Testament of Goro Maki in Shin Godzilla
I’m not saying that anyone is ripping anyone off here, but are enough of these offstage types manipulating plots throughout otaku culture to make me feel like there is an unnamed genre now, and that Mamoru Oshii has been their prime mover (although Shinji's dad in Eva is so remote that he nearly qualifies as "permanently absent" in my book).
Speaking of Patlabor, the 3rd movie, WXII (not by Oshii) was also very much a revisionist monster on the loose film that might have some parallels to Shin Godzilla...
A difference is that Oshii was bringing politik to what was ostensibly a children’s medium (similar to what Frank Miller and Alan Moore were doing with the graphic novel around the same time) that was already acquainted with sex, death, and war... whereas Godzilla films have openly dealt with the atomic age and military-industrial concerns since the beginning in 1954, only to become kid’s entertainment as they evolved.
CARL GUSTAV HORN
Shin Godzilla Does Tokyo
I realize this is the eternal question in kaiju movies, but I missed something on the first screening that might be connected to your point about Goro Maki--namely, does anyone in the film come up with a theory as to why Godzilla came to Tokyo? Tokyo in particular, since, as gets pointed out in the story, Japan is a big island to defend. Of course, for the sake of tradition (and the audience relating), it has to be Tokyo, but what I mean is, does anyone in Shin Godzilla formulate a rationale for it in the best otaku tradition, the way they speculate on other aspects of the creature?
I say Godzilla "came to" Tokyo, because it's not evident that Godzilla is attacking Tokyo per se, any more than you're attacking any bugs you might happen to be walking upon. Where exactly was Godzilla headed when the SDF first tried to bring him down? Is he being lured there in some fashion, perhaps according to a scheme set in motion by (missing scientist) Goro Maki? Maybe the abandoned yacht in the bay was the lure--but then why leave the bay and start heading upriver?
In an ironic reflection of the SDF's role, it also wasn't clear to me that Godzilla ever unleashes his weapons to "destroy Tokyo," only to defend himself. In fact, it's not even clear his gouts of flame and laser beams are "weapons." A lot of what happens seems like a response to injury. It's almost like, if you drop a bomb on a nuclear reactor and it starts spewing out superheated steam and radiation, do you then say the reactor is "attacking" you? This raises another irony--maybe there would have been less destruction if the SDF had not resisted and just let Godzilla go wherever it was going in the first place, although if true that's only hindsight--it's not like you could tell any government "just let it stomp--if you provoke it, it will become more dangerous," even if that is actually true.
Fishing for monsters in Patlabor WXIII
You make a good comparison of Shin Godzilla to the third Patlabor movie (WXIII), and I also remember your comment when WXIII came out on how well the film depicted the real, workaday Tokyo (rather than the romantic one of neon and giant screens), just as Shin Godzilla does. Unlike the first two Patlabor films, Oshii did not direct WXIII, of course, but it's worthwhile to compare backgrounds at this point. Oshii and Anno are only nine years apart in age--but when you fit them into post-war Japan, those nine years may be critical in shaping their political perspectives.
Oshii was of the last generation of Japanese youth to be associated with political activism and even radicalism. He was an eight year-old in Tokyo during the massive ANPO protests of 1960--when he was 20, the Red Army was in full effect; he talks about the atmosphere of those days with Naoki Yamamoto in his recent manga series, Red. When Anno was 20, he was making Ultraman films for class credit. Things in the game done changed. Otaku would one day be linked with the AUM cult, but I submit that kind of homegrown apocalyptic cult (Galapagos terror, if you will) was not connected to the networks of radical world politics the way the Red Army was.
Coup by kaiju in Shin Godzilla
Shin Godzilla is both more and less a depiction of radical politics in Japan than Oshii's Patlabor 2--and by radical, I mean the use of open violence to achieve political change. Less, because Patlabor 2's antagonist seeks to provoke change by using attacks against roads, communications, and materiel to create every appearance of a coup but the coup itself--i.e., his targets are not the physical persons of Japan's leadership. But more, because Shin Godzilla's narrative actually goes that far. Not to be overlooked in Anno's equation is the script's decapitating strike that kills Japan's senior leadership, leaving a clearer path for the younger people to execute their plan. You couldn't call it a "coup," for the same reason you couldn't call what Godzilla does an "attack." Nevertheless, it has the practical effect of a coup, and perhaps Mr. Abe, whose cabinet members average age 60, should take a closer look at what the film might be saying.