Godzilla (1954), Mothra (1961), The Birds (1963), animals wrecking havoc pulls in the crowds. The power of nature, a sympathetic threat, humanity playing God, the parable of cause and effect with destruction in its wake works. Its simplicity fills seats and is attractive over and over. B Grade or Top Shelf, it rests on the monster to fuel the rest. The Proper Exercise, Endless Salad Bar, Bird Cage Vacuum, “Tibby, Oh Tibby”, Kenny, Beauty Salon, The Cast of Gamera. “Hey Sandy Frank, isn’t that when you drop your hotdog at the beach?”, “A DAIEI!!! Motion Picture”, “Planning… You know I’d like to be an actor but I really want to plan.” “Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat…” or “Micro Machines at 12 O’Clock”?
Gamera! Gamera! Gamera is really neat, but I actually prefer the later, more goofy movies. This one, as expected from a kaiju movie, is more of a disaster movie, which I’m not a big fan of. We’re all living in one!
But we get Kenny, Tibby, and the beginning of a long relationship with everyone’s favorite flying turtle dragon beast.
This is a weird one in the Gamera series because Gamera is unequivocally a monster out to destroy all human civilization. Except for Kenny, whose life he inexplicably saves. At which point Kenny is absolutely certain that Gamera is good and the protector of children. Even as he watches Gamera stomp through downtown Tokyo, destroying buildings and killing people (no doubt including children), Kenny just watches and insists that Gamera is good.
And then, wouldn’t you know it, in all the sequels it turns out Kenny was right and it’s just a fact known the world over that Gamera is friend to all children, and no one remembers how he flew around the world blowing everything up in his insatiable quest to devour all energy.
I’m aware. Almost pointed that out in my post. It seems weird there, too.
I kind of get it? Introduce the monster in a solo film, so of course he has to destroy everything. He becomes popular, so you make a sequel, so naturally he’s now fighting a different monster, making the original monster the hero. I believe Mothra went through similar, too.
But it’s specifically strange that even in the first movie, Kenny is adamant that Gamera is good and friend to all children when literally everyone else is watching the giant monster killing thousands of people and destroying an entire city.
… I mean, granted. Godzilla is generally understood to be a means to work through some of the national trauma of nuclear devastation (even as the country would soon embrace nuclear power as a means of generating the electricity needed to build the high tech manufacturing infrastructure that would shape the coming generations).
But I just can’t get over Kenny being in Tokyo, staring out the window while Gamera crushes a series of entire (apparently full) apartment complexes, still insisting that Gamera would never harm a child and that he’s fundamentally good. And I think we’re supposed to agree with him?
While there are probably more loathsome child characters out there than Kenny (original name Toshio), I can’t think of one immediately. As well as his obnoxious lack of self-preservation where he constantly blunders into harm’s way, there’s his insistence that Gamera is good despite him reducing Tokyo Tower to an erector set and making quick work of a considerable portion of the urban landscape. There are some fans who have suggested that Kenny may have an autism variant, which manifests through his turtle obsession. It’s as good an explanation as any. Under such circumstances, I suppose he’s more to be pitied than despised. Though it can be rather difficult to remember while being subjected to a whiny and shrill, “Gamera is good!”
I suspect what really chafes the collective hinders of many viewers is how Kenny’s half-baked suggestions are taken seriously by the adults rather than be dismissed out of hand. Believe me, he won’t be the last snot-nosed Japanese punk to receive such deference that we’ll be seeing.
While Gamera doesn’t have the same level of recognition as Godzilla (particularly in the States), he crops up from time to time. As well as occasional mentions in the Sally Forth comic strip, there was an episode of the anime series Detective Conan where a murder is committed in a kaiju film studio. The kaiju in question is named Gomera and, like his similarly named turtle counterpart, he’s a Friend of All Children. Unlike Gamera though, he has his own version of the Mothra pixies.
Decent episode. Though if any Kaiju were to end up in my Best Of collection it would be Barugon. No screechy kids in that one.
It’s interesting that the riffs openly connect Kenny to Damien and other legendary child evil-doers from Western movies. But the original story stops short of that, unless some of it was lost in translation. Nothing supernatural seems to motivate Kenny or create his emotional connection to either standard or super-size turtles. It’s just a thing he does. I also wonder what the stones had to do with it all. Maybe he wanted to have cairn materials handy in case he had to bury another pet? I dunno’…
(P.S. - If there’s a badge for people who constantly post their own links to posts they already wrote earlier, I’m determined to get it. )