A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series, 2d ed (2010)

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I don’t remember the first Godzilla movie i ever watched. I feel like it must have been at a time in my life before solid memories were formed. I’m sure i first saw one of the films as a very young child on TV. He became a part of my DNA. I have always known who the Big G is and I’ve always loved watching the films. Information about the series has become somewhat more available in recent years but my own personal knowledge bank is scant at best. At least it was until I read this fantastic book.

The author covers every single Japanese made Godzilla film, from the original all the way to Final Wars, the last Japanese film made. This is no mean feat as there are nearly 30 Godzilla movies. He also covers related films like Mothra, Varan, Rodan, and Dogora among many others to put the canon films into perspective. No stone is left unturned in this deeply researched book. We get biographical information about the film makers, related filmography, and accurate timelines of the creative teams responsible for each film. We learn what the directer was doing before the Godzilla film, what other films the writer had been penning, what other special effects the SFX masters were laboring on before during and even after the film in question was made. Critical analysis of each film is also included in each entry. We learn what was going on in the culture at the time and how it affected each film. There are jokes and references that were always lost on me, that now make more sense because of the thorough picture the author gives of the time and place each film came from. This perspective is very helpful when trying to understand the cultural shifts that were going on which each film was made. Remember, the films span many decades, first starting in 1954 and ending in 2004. Each film serves as a barometer of the culture in which it was made which explains why the films change so dramatically during the run.

We also get a detailed comparison of the American versions of each film which in some cases is dramatically different than the original vision for the film.  Beyond that the book is actually fun to read. This could have easily been as dry as toast with no butter but instead the author writes in an authoritative yet sometimes playful and certainly admiring voice. He has a true passion and love for the series and it shines through. He is however  capable od fishing out heavy criticism for elements that fail in each film so you need not worry about the book being too much of a fanboy tribute. His vision is loving by not myopic. He can see the shortcomings just as easily as you or I but he also has information that explains why those shortcomings were present.

If you’re looking for a book that deeply researches, analyzes, and seeks to understand the Godzilla franchise, look no further. This book is a treasure and a pleasure to read.

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