How I remember Japanese Monster Films

Growing up in Singapore/Malaysia, my childhood has always revolved around Japanese films and animation (Anime). Back in the 90’s, western cartoon shows like Rugrats, Dexter’s lab and Hey Arnold can only be accessed with an Astro cable subscription (which was new and super expensive at the time).

Source: Cartoon Network & Nickelodeon

Throughout the 90’s until the early 2000’s, the majority of kids (From my circle of friends) prefer Japanese shows like Ultraman, Gundam Series (Gundam Wing) and Ninja Warrior (Sasuke) because its accessible on the public channel every Saturday morning and Sunday Night.

Gundam Wing

Gundam Wing Endless Waltz (1998) Source: Sunrise

Every kid in the neighborhood knows who Ultraman is, we used to play pretend who’s Ultraman and who’s the monster at the playground and ended up having bruises when we get back home. I remember beating my friend so hard because he pretended to be “DADA”, my most hated monster in the Ultraman series.

DADA.png

“DADA” Monster from the Original Ultraman (1966) Source: Tsuburaya Production

When my family got an Astro subscription, I got the privilege to access both western and Japanese cartoons. At that moment, I was exposed to shows like Spongebob and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody where I don’t have to read subtitles to understand. At the time, that was considered as a privilege.  The idea of having 3+ Channels for cartoons was beyond my expectation.

A few days back, I saw the original 1954 “Gojira”, and cant help but to feel nostalgic because it reminds me of the good old “Ultraman” days. The sound and special effects  were similar. Have a look at this comparison :

Ultraman (1966) Source : Youtube

 

Gojira (1954) Source : Youtube

The original Ultraman was first aired in Japan in 1966, so its understandable to see similar values and effects from Gojira. There was an episode from the Original Ultraman (1966) that had a Gojira reference. They introduced a monster that looks and sounds exactly like Gojira and named it “Red King” as a reference to the nickname that was given to Gojira, “Godzilla: King of The Monsters”. That was the closest one we can get for a Godzilla vs Ultraman crossover.

Source: Google

We can clearly see how influential the original Gojira is to the film industry. It became its own genre (kaiju) that inspired awesome films like Ultraman, and Super Sentai. Throughout the years, this film culture has been utilized to its full potential and people tend to link this genre, to be a part of the Japanese culture. Even Hollywood are trying get a piece of the cake when they attempt to make an American adaptation of Godzilla in 1998, 2014 and the upcoming sequel to the 2014 movie.

GOD Z BOI.jpg

Godzilla (2014) Source: Google

They did the same thing to Ultraman as well. There were 2 non – Japanese version of Ultraman throughout the 90’s, one from the US (Ultraman: Ultimate Hero, 1995) and Australia (Ultraman: Towards The Future, 1992).

Source: Google

From my cultural background, I can clearly spot the differences between Japanese films and its western adaptations. Maybe its just my gut feeling, but the American Ultraman has a different tone into it, even with an Asian lead character, and the same monsters from the original, it doesn’t feel the same as the original formula that the Japanese had been using from 1966 – 1980.  Same goes to Godzilla, my first Godzilla film was, Godzilla vs Mothra (1992). When I first saw the 1998 American Version, it felt different. In conclusion, both sets of film shares the same values but different approach and it could be the result of cultural difference.

4 comments

  1. This was a really enjoyable read. Thank you for sharing so much of your cultural background, your thoughts and ideas are incredibly insightful and I feel like I have learnt a lot about not only Japanese film and television, but about you as well and your experiences growing up.

    You have given an in depth exploration of the difference between Japanese and western cartoons/ films which is much appreciated as it allows readers like myself to understand the appeal of both Japanese and western forms of media. I found it relatable that having Astro was seen as a luxury because when I was younger we were not allowed to have Foxtel (cable TV) because it was considered expensive and unnecessary, despite me thinking it had all the “better” television shows.

    I am interested to see your future comparisons of media using your cultural background against more westernised media. Great job!

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  2. I would assume many other people (including myself) can understand where you’re coming from. To date it would be safe to say 98% of the time American/western adaptations of Asian films are no match for the original.
    Like you said in your conclusion, “both sets of films share the same the same values, but different approach and it could be the result of cultural difference”.
    This cultural difference is the pièce de résistance that make Asian films feel more detailed and precise (in a way). We can see that in Gorija, as well as more mainstream comparisons such as anime and horror films.

    Maybe western TV shows and films are bit less thought-provoking than Asian shows and films and they want to just mass re-produce well made originals and reap the profits… but hey, that’s none of my business to judge…

    And by the way, nice blog post, really well done! (now that the cliché is out of the way)

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  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog post about your cultural experience and understanding of the 1954 film, ‘Gojira’. It was very engaging as well as thought-provoking. I appreciated reading your experience growing up in Singapore/Malaysia at a young age as I have also grown up in Singapore, however, it was throughout my teenage years. I was not familiar with the TV show ‘Ultraman’ nevertheless your comparison with ‘Gojira’ is in-depth and is interesting to discover that ‘Gojira’ had influenced other various children shows.

    I did some of my own research regarding the characters Ultraman and Gojira and noticed that there were quite a lot of forums of people debating whether Gojira or Ultraman would win in a fight. I found it so interesting that there were multiple discussions surrounding the two characters!

    You have used multiple images and videos throughout that have added a strong visual aspect aiding the reader in understanding the films and TV shows you referenced.

    Well done, keep up the good work!

    Like

  4. I too share the same values and interests as I grew up Filipino-Australian and was exposed to a certain extent of different forms of Asian culture and media. However I did not have access Astro subscription, sadly.

    First and foremost, I do believe with your statement that having access to different forms of cartoons and TV shows within different cultures is a privilege. I was exposed to anime and Filipino cartoons, comedies growing up, as well as Western channels like Disney and Nickelodeon. I realised it was very much a privilege to be able to have access to all these mediums and be able to develop my own diverse and cultural understanding at such a young age.

    With your example of Ultraman and it’s reference to Gojira, it made me realise that I have also seen Gojira’s references in other cartoons and series I have watched growing up. It has made me quite nostalgic and exemplifies that the extent of Gojira’s pop cultural influence and success in other differing culture is phenomenal.

    This was a highly insightful and interesting blog post in terms of your own personal/cultural framework in approach to the Film ‘Gojira!

    Like

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