Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003)

Composed by: Michiru Oshima

Tokyo SOS continued the story from Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla. This time Mothra joins the fray. Her fairies warn Japan that by using the original Godzilla’s bones for Kiryu (MechaGodzilla), it’s actually attracting the current Godzilla’s recent attacks. They offer the services of Mothra as a protector, but Japan is hesitant. What results is a three-monster battle. I think this is a pretty good sequel. It’s the only film in the franchise where MechaGodzilla interacts with Mothra and it also further explores and resolves Kiryu’s spiritual link to Godzilla. My one major criticism is that Akane, the female lead from the previous film, is reduced to a small supporting role despite being the one to have carried Kiryu to victory. Still, the decision to focus on one of Kiryu’s mechanics, Yoshito, as the lead is interesting and gives a different perspective. As usual, Oshima’s score is great. She delivers more great themes while further developing the ones she had already devised for Godzilla and Kiryu. Continue reading

Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla (2002)

Composed by: Michiru Oshima

Masaaki Tezuka returned to the Godzilla franchise two years after Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, and he brought composer Michiru Oshima back with him. Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla is more than just a reboot of the last MechaGodzilla vehicle. This time the mech is literally built around the bones of the original 1954 Godzilla! This is the closest fans have gotten to a Godzilla vs. Godzilla movie. Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla is the first half of the Kiryu duology, Kiryu being the new name for MechaGodzilla. These are among my favorite Godzilla films, with good storylines, some pretty good characters, great special effects and battle scenes, and also some of the best Kaiju music.

Oshima once again starts the score with Godzilla’s theme. In “Toho Logo – Transport Duty” it leads to a one-off military march. The second track sees the return of the full-fledged Godzilla theme presentation. The iterations of the Godzilla theme aren’t much different than what was presented in Oshima’s last entry, but she distinguishes her score with the wealth of new themes. The first of these appears in “Main Title.” It’s the first of many heroic motifs established for the score. After a tragic event in the opening sequence, Oshima goes into dour-sounding material in “Ominous Memories” and “Memorial Service.” “Appearance Requested” is an urgent track with the fanfare from “Main Title.” Continue reading

Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II

 

The cover for the soundtrack

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II is not a sequel to the original Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla, but a continuation of the 90s Heisei series. Continuing their strategy of rebooting older monsters, the producers at Toho brought back the two remaining mega-monster stars: MechaGodzilla and Rodan. They also gave Godzilla a son again, but rather than bring back the divisive Minya they opted for a more realistic take. There are two central plots to the film. The first is G-Force, an organization tasked with battling Godzilla and other monsters, creating a mechanical Godzilla in hopes of finally killing the Big G once and for all. The other is the discovery of an egg in Rodan’s nest. It turns out to be a baby Godzilla, and Godzilla and Rodan battle for custody of the child. Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II is full of good ideas, but I find the film to be somewhat lacking. I think it’s not absurd or good enough to draw me in. The real issue might be the monster battles. The Heisei series is infamous for having the monsters stand apart throwing beams at each other and I find it to get boring at times. It’s nice to actually have them sometimes grapple or fight like actual animals. The music, though, is probably Ifukube’s best from the 90s. Continue reading

Terror of MechaGodzilla (1975)

Composed by: Akira Ifukube

Terror of MechaGodzilla was the last installment of the original Showa series. This was not exactly intentional, as more films would doubtlessly have been made if not for the fact that it was the least financially successful movie in the franchise. It was thus perhaps ironically fitting that the last old Godzilla film was directed by Ishiro Honda and scored by Akira Ifukube. The aliens from Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla rebuild their creation with a few improvements. A mad scientist named Dr. Mifune agrees to use his cybernetic-enhanced daughter Katsura to help control the robot, as well as a dinosaur named Titanosaurus (not the real one, a fictional bipedal one that can cause winds with its tail). The film doesn’t feel as fun as the previous entry, but the story is more intriguing. It’s not the strongest entry, but its leagues ahead of most other late Godzilla entries in the original series.

Ifukube had been gone for a long time. Upon his return Godzilla had already been completely transformed into a goofier kid-friendly superhero. He decided it would be wise to dismiss the traditional theme, as it conveyed a sense of destructive terror. His replacement is the main title march from the original Godzilla film, one of the most important musical decisions in the series. Not only is it more heroic, he plays it a tad more ponderously to match the Big G’s size. Evidently the use of this theme had a major impact, as Ifukube would make it Godzilla’s primary theme when he returned to the franchise sixteen years later.

Ifukube of course does not jazz up MechaGodzilla like Satoh did. Instead he creates a heavily sinister theme. This powerful villainous fanfare creates a great sense of dread with its long notes. Titanosaurus has his own sinister theme. The first part of this theme is played on low instruments while the second gets shrill like Rodan’s theme, appropriate since both can create destructive winds. Katsura, the woman behind these monsters, is an important enough character to gain her own musical identity. This melancholy theme conveys a sense of both romance and tragedy. “Katsura’s Death” (sorry for the spoiler) is one good variation that ends on a soft reprise of MechaGodzilla’s theme. “Ending” does not feature any of the themes, but has a choral flourish which fittingly closes out the Showa series.

Terror of MechaGodzila is a decent finale for old school Godzilla. This and the other MechaGodzilla film both had music that helped restore some of the Big G’s lost luster. It was fitting that the main title march from the first film would return as Godzilla’s heroic theme. This brought the music full circle and also set the stage of Ifukube’s contribution to the Heisei series in the 90s. One quibble for Terror’s score is some of the repetition, which is to be expected in many Ifukube scores.

Rating: 7/10

  1. Main Title
  2. ‘Akatsuki One’ in Distress
  3. Mugar Heads to Earth
  4. Dr. Mafune’s Past
  5. The Female in the Mafune Family
  6. Off to Mount Amagi
  7. Mechagodzilla II
  8. Ichinose and Katsura
  9. Katsura’s Memories
  10. Escape from Titanosaurus
  11. Ichinose Gets Tailed
  12. Titanosaurus Swings into Action
  13. Titanosaurus Attacks
  14. The Appearance of Godzilla
  15. Cyborg Surgery
  16. The Mafune Family Tragedy
  17. Mechagodzilla II Goes on the Offensive
  18. Mechagodzilla Counterattacks
  19. Godzilla vs. The Mega Monster Tag-Team
  20. Godzilla in Danger
  21. Resurrection of Godzilla
  22. Sharpshooting
  23. Katsura’s Death
  24. Ending

Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla (1974)

Composed by: Masaru Satoh

The Godzilla series experienced an uptick at the box office with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (or vs. the Bionic Monster or vs. the Cosmic Monster). The idea of a giant mechanical doppelganger of the famed monster obviously had strong appeal. The film also avoided the use of stock footage, though, with remaining budget constraints, at the expense of having a long stretch of time without any monsters. The movie once again has aliens masterminding the plot. Their new weapon MechaGodzilla is pretty awesome and the film is great when he’s in action. Otherwise it’s a bit weak, focused more on humans evading alien agents in order to bring a mystic statue to Okinawa Island. The statue is supposed to revive King Seesar, a giant protector dog. One of the aspects that probably helped the film gain popularity despite its flaws is Masaru Satoh’s final return with a jazzy yet powerful score. Continue reading