KAIJU KONNECTION: Gamera, Guardian of the Universe

For this entry of KAIJU KONNECTION I am covering the first of a trilogy of Gamera movies that came out in the 90s known as the Heisei series. What Daiei was able to do with these three films was to exceed what could be done with special effects, both in the past and since! They have set the bar on men in a rubber suit movies showing that it is still a very viable way to make these films. For this blog, I am using the Blu-ray version of this film that came in the GAMERA: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION by Arrow Films, reviewed by me HERE. I watched the Japanese-language version with English subtitles.

GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE was released in 1995 and was directed by Shusuke Kaneko with special effects by Shinji Higuchi. Both Gamera and the Gyaos have been redesigned for this movie and they have never looked better. The new look is a lot more believable than how they were portrayed in the Showa films, and often times you forget that there is actually a guy in those suits.

The film opens with both the Toho and Daiei logos. We then see the plutonium transport ship the Kairyu-Maru and the Marine Safety Agency patrol boat, the Nojima, guiding the transport ship to Japan. Nerves are high as transporting plutonium is risky and if anything happens, most life in the Pacific would die. Suddenly a call comes through to the patrol boat; the Kairyu-Maru has hit an atoll. Though the ocean here is almost two miles deep, sure enough, the ship has run aground. Suddenly the ship shifts violently and the atoll starts to move away. On the radar an enormous oval shape is seen. We are then told, by a series of newspaper headlines, that other marine accidents have been happening.

Back at the Marine Safety Agency they go over the report of the incident with the Kairyu-Maru. Yoshinari Yonemori is feeling guilt at the possibility of a plutonium leak during the accident. He wants to participate in the insurance investigation to find out what it was that they ran aground on.

We are then introduced to Mayumi Nagamine, an ornithologist, who is called to investigate a giant bird sighting at a small village on Himegami Island in the Goto Archipelago. Professor Hirata, her boss, was sent there to investigate and hasn’t been heard from since. We cut to the island where a raging storm is happening and two villagers are running, hoping to escape by boat. Both are killed by an unseen creature.

Yonemori stops at a local market as he heading to Naoya Kusanagi’s house, to try to get on the team investigating the incident with the Kairyu-Maru. Here we are introduced also to Asagi Kusanagi, who ends up in all three of the Heisei Gamera films. When Naoya gets home, Yoshinari is making dinner for him and his daughter. Naoya offers him a non-paying job to help find the drifting atoll.

The investigation begins. They are able to determine approximately where the atoll may be by looking at the reported boating incidents in the Pacific. Nagamine is then visited by Inspector Osako, who is investigating the disappearance of Professor Hirata. He convinces her to come with him to Himegami Island. When they arrive they find no people and the village has been completely destroyed, as if a typhoon had come through. They find a huge glob of whitish material, that looks like a large bird dropping. When Nagamine looks closer at it, she finds Hirata’s pen and glasses. Then then investigate in the woods, hoping to see the giant bird. Suddenly all of the sounds of nature stop and a large, reptilian-like creature flies overhead. They get into a helicopter to pursue and Nagasaki Airport is warned about the flying monster. They speed up in the helicopter to get a better look. The Gyaos comes up next to the helicopter and flashes from a camera make it fly away. Two more Gyaos are seen in the distance.

Meanwhile, back at sea, they have a sonar response from the moving atoll. They pull up to the atoll and a party is sent to investigate it. They climb on top and look around, finding comma-shaped stones with a hole in each one. A jagged stone is then found and they dig it out. It is a large tablet with drawings and writings on it. Before they can remove it, it crumbles to pieces and as the entire atoll shakes, the men are thrown into the water. The rocks of the atoll start to fall off, revealing an eye and a tusk.

Nagamine is then brought to meet with a group of people that want to capture the Gyaos. She is instructed to devise a plan to capture them, since she is the only one that knows anything about them. Though she states it will be risky because they do not understand what their characteristics are, she is ordered to come up with a plan. What they come up with is to attract the Gyaos to Fukuoka Dome with food and then close the ceiling on them.

Large sides of beef are brought in and cages are installed. The plan is that once the Gyaos start feeding, they will be tranquilized and then caged. Helicopters are used to draw them from Himegami Island to Fukuoka. Yonemori then arrives at Fukuoka, where the trap is being set. He warns that a giant life form is on its way. Everyone takes their posts to capture the Gyaos, hopefully before the larger life form arrives. All three Gyaos enter the baseball stadium and start eating the meat. They then start to close to dome’s ceiling. The sharp shooters fire before the ceiling is closed and one immediately gets away, one is successfully darted and the third heads right towards the sharp shooters and Nagamine. Before it can get them they turn on a bunch of strobe lights and shoot it with many darts.

Meanwhile, the one that got away heads to the ocean, followed by a helicopter. We watch this scene through the eyes of the pilot and his night vision goggles. As he pursues the Gyaos, Gamera suddenly stands up in the water and reveals himself. He swats the Gyaos out of the air into a fuel storage area, causing tanks to explode. Gamera walks through the city leaving a path of destruction as he heads towards the dome, where the two remaining Gyaos are.

The Gyaos are then caged as the footsteps of Gamera are heard approaching. Everyone evacuates as Gamera tries to get into the baseball stadium. The Gyaos then awake and using supersonic rays, break free of the cages. As they escape Gamera pursues by blasting into the air.

A study is then made of the markings on the tablet that was found on the back of Gamera. The runes have a history that may explain Gamera, who is a protector of the earth. When deciphered is says that Gamera will awake when the Gyaos appear. The monsters are now officially named. Yoshinari then gives Asagi one of the comma-shaped stones, which ends up connecting her to Gamera.

Back at Himegami Island, Inspector Osako and Nagamine are investigating again and find what appears to be a Gyaos nest, where all of the babies are dead. Some have devoured each other and others starved to death. A council meeting is also held about what to do with the monsters. It is decided that Gamera is the bigger threat than the Gyaos, even if it did come to destroy them.

The military is dispatched to find Gamera, who flies out of the ocean. Jets are dispatched to pursue him. Meanwhile, at the Kiso Mountain Range, both Yoshinari and Naoya arrive to find Nagamine, who is pursuing the Gyaos. As they get closer they hear a bell ringing, signifying something is going on. People are running because a Gyaos has been sighted. Nagamine is seen running across a bridge with a young boy and in the background, a now giant Gyaos appears over the tree line. He spots the two on the bridge and tries to get them to eat. Just as he gets close, Gamera appears and blasts him with a ball of fire, disintegrating him. The second Gyaos then appears and tries to get Yoshinari, Nagamine and the boy with its laser blast, and Gamera blocks it with his hand. Gamera then takes off in pursuit of the last Gyaos. They now realize that Gamera is their to protect them.

We then cut to Asagi, who has a bruise on her right hand, in the same place where Gamera deflected the laser blast from the Gyaos. The military prepares to attack Gamera with missles. Gyaos appears with Gamera close behind and he is blown out of the sky, landing at the base of Mt. Fuji. Asagi then hires a taxi to bring her as close to Mt. Fuji as possible. Meanwhile the military continues their attack on Gamera. When Asagi arrives she witnesses the attack first hand and when Gamera gets hurt, it affects her as well, with a cut on her arm. Gyaos then appears and starts an attack on Gamera as well. Asagi is able to communicate to Gamera telling him to leave. When he does, Asagi faints.

We then cut to the hospital where Asagi is. She immediately asks her father where Gamera is. It is revealed that he escaped to the sea, presumably to heal. Gyaos has retreated to the woods at the base of Mt. Fuji. At the Defense Ministry the decision is put forth to still try to capture Gyaos. Nagamine says that it is now an impossible task, as it is not stronger and twice the size. Yonemori says that it is the Gyaos that should be destroyed and not Gamera, a statement that the Ministry is not happy to hear. Precautions are being taken to defend against Gyaos and its taste for humans, but Gamera is still the target, despite proving time and again that he is there to help.

After Nagamine gets a call during the Defense Ministry meeting, we cut to her, Yonemori and a college colleague of hers by the name of Michiya, who has been studying data supplied on Gyaos. The Gyaos only have one pair of chromosomes, which is highly unusual. With all of the information in just this pair makes them perfect, never seen before in any other lifeform. No evolution was involved with this animal, it just came into being perfect, as if it was manufactured. They are also able to change to male, allowing them to breed without fertilization.

At the base of Mt. Fuji, Gyaos continues to grow at an alarming rate. Nagamine, Yonemori and Naoya discuss possibly using Asagi to communicate with Gamera, to perhaps aid him in destroying Gyaos. On the ocean floor, Gamera is healing.

Back in the city it is nightfall. A commuter train is seen riding by. Inside everyone seems to be relaxed, perhaps happy to be going home at the end of the day. A young couple are seen together, with the girl resting her head on his shoulder. He glances out the window and sees Gyaos flying outside the window. He panics, causing the car to panic. Talons break through the roof of the car, lifting it into the air, with the passengers on board. As Gyaos flies away for a safe place to eat, it is said that he has grown to a wingspan of 320 feet. Jets are sent to pursue. Gyaos lands, driving the train car into the ground. It rips the top off like a tin can and starts to eat everyone within. The Cabinet then comes to the decision to destroy Gyaos.

An evacuation is underway in the city, preparing for daytime attack, since Gyaos is nocturnal. He is sleeping off his last meal in the middle of the city. Surface-to-air missiles are used to attack. The blast is huge, having no effect on the animal. It takes off, with more missiles in pursuit. Gyaos flies just over the city heading towards Tokyo Tower. As it flies around the famed Tower, both missiles hit it, destroying the upper half. In defiance, the monster lands on what’s left of the Tower and makes a nest. The Defense Ministry finally realizes that Gamera is their only hope.

It is announced that another attack on Gyaos will begin at 7 AM. Naoya goes in to check on Asagi, who is still sleeping. The comma-shaped bead around her neck starts to glow red, meaning that Gamera is now healed and ready to fight back. Asagi wakes up in a sweat; they are both recovered.

Nagamine, Yonemori Naoya and Asagi meet, readying themselves for the attack. A loud rumbling is heard and Asagi says, “He’s here.” In a scene that doesn’t make sense, but is cool to watch, Gamera breaks free from under the city to surprise Gyaos (he has never been known to be a burrower and it seems like it would’ve been much easier to fly to Gyaos’ location). As soon as Gamera breaks free of the ground, Gyaos takes off and Gamera shoots a fireball at it. The fireball hits the nest, causing multiple eggs to fall to the ground and smash. Gamera then pursues Gyaos for an aerial battle.

They fly over the city with Gamera shooting multiple fireballs at it, to no avail. Most end up hitting the tops of buildings, destroying them. In another scene that makes no sense, Gyaos is then shown flying with its wings tucked up tight to its body. Though it makes it easier for it to fly between buildings, how is it propelled? Gyaos is able to get behind Gamera, shooting its own laser beams at him. Meanwhile, our four protagonists take off in a helicopter. Gyaos is hit by a blast on the side of his face, causing Asagi to bleed from the same cheek. Gamera then falls to the ground, causing a lot of damage to the surrounding city (and setting up GAMERA 3; REVENGE OF IRIS).

When Gamera stands up, hurt, Gyaos flies into him full force causing him to fall back into buildings. The helicopter with Asagi tries to get as close to Gamera as they can so that she can communicate with him. The fight between the two monsters is very physical, causing mass destruction to the cityscape. Gyaos then tries to use his talons, attack Gamera’s face. Gamera knocks him into an office building. In a nice touch, Gyaos’ head is seen entering the building from within. The back of his head breaks through the glass and you see a very detailed office space that he then destroys. As the building starts to fall over, Gyaos blasts his way out using his laser beams.

Gamera takes off, to draw Gyaos out of the city. Another aerial battle begins, this time way up in the earth’s atmosphere. Because of where they are, Gamera’s fire-fueled jets stop working and he grabs Gyaos as the two head back to earth at a frightening speed. Once they get back into the atmosphere Gyaos tries blasting Gamera with his lasers but Gamera’s mouth is clamped tight onto his leg. When they finally separate, Gyaos’ lower leg is still in Gamera’s mouth. Gyaos is able to fly away but Gamera is not so lucky. In one of the greatest miniature explosion scenes, Gamera crash lands into an oil refinery on the coast.

Gyaos then flies over the refinery, blasting everything in sight with his laser beams. Gyaos lands, on one foot. Asagi and her father hold hands, giving the strength needed to Gamera to finish the fight. All of the flames start to swirl and as they dissipate, Gamera is revealed. There is a face off, as both monsters get ready to blast each other. When they shoot, Gamera’s fire blast is so strong that it blasts through not only Gyaos’ beam but his head as well, destroying him in a fireball. Asagi thanks her father and Gamera looks at her, as if to say thanks as well. Her scars magically heal and Gamera heads back to the ocean. The connection between Asagi and Gamera is broken.

I hope you enjoyed this synopsis as much as I enjoyed writing it. Make sure to read my other entries in my KAIJU KONNECTION series.

To order your own copy of this amazing film, just click on the image below.

~David Albaugh

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