by Renzo Adler

On the southernmost tip of Tokyo, a stone’s throw from Haneda airport and about an hour from Ikebukuro’s Otome Road is the quiet neighborhood of Kamata. It’s glitzy or glamorous nor is it a historical destination or the site of some religious ceremony, one of its bigger claims to fame is a scene in 2016's Shin Godzilla when Godzilla, in his nascent larval-like form, makes landfall. Yet for a brief period, it was laid siege by some of the greatest monsters in cinema history.

Scenic Kamata!

It was a chilly day on January 5, 2020, during that ever so brief period when the new year held promise. I was feeling a bit sniffly so I wore a face mask to do as the Romans do, not realizing just how much I’d be wearing one come March. I was making my pilgrimage to the Tokyo University of Technology Kamata campus for the Gamera DNA of Tokusatsu exhibition. Still ongoing, the DNA of Tokusatsu series of traveling exhibitions presents kaiju history, from the dawn of the genre to today, from Ultraman, Godzilla, and Gamera, to the general public. The Gamera exhibition ran from December 19, 2019 to January 26, 2020, and covered the Heisei (and a little bit of Showa) era of Gamera films.

The 1990s Gamera films, directed by Shûsuke Kaneko were the unmatched pinnacle of kaiju cinema until Shin Godzilla made landfall in 2016. Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris pulled off the delicate balancing act of paying tribute to the over the top Showa legacy of Gamera, while also taking the films in new directions that made them feel grounded even when a giant flower from outer space is menacing Sapporo.

All that is thanks to the brilliant and bespoke special effects work done for the films. Suits, miniatures, and animatronics, all coming together seamlessly thanks to people such as Shinji Higuchi (the special effects director of the Heisei Gamera trilogy who would go on to co-direct Shin Godzilla with Hideaki Anno) and Tomoo Haraguchi (creature creator for the films). The following photos were taken at the exhibit.

 

 One of the Legion Soldier suits from Gamera 2: Attack of Legion. One of the few human-sized monsters to menace Gamera, the suit still sparkles from the glitter on it.

 

 The absolutely colossal Iris suit from Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.

 

 Iris' heart, which is powered by a young girl, sculpted by the legendary Takayuki Takeda.

 

Gamera, Gyaos, and Iris, oh my!

 

Iris tentacle props.

 

Miniature from Gamera 2 that was prophetic of 2020's prevailing mood.

 

Replete with turtle meat and jet fuel, Gamera takes to the skies.

 

Closeup of the Gamera 2 suit.

 

The suit from the 2006 film, Gamera the Brave, the final entry to date in the Gamera series.



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