One hundred years of Showatude

All-CGI old-school kaijuu pastiche 『惑星大怪獣ネガドン』, English title Negadon: the Monster from Mars, has been released on DVD. (I hear the US release is scheduled for summer.)

Creator AWAZU Jun insists on the official site that if you like "kaiju (giant monsters) and robots... more than double cheeseburgers, then you've got to watch NEGADON," but I don't know about that. Maybe if you like them more than Freshness Burger double cheeseburgers, but the McDonalds or Wendy's double cheeseburger is probably too low a bar to use there. The eponymous giant monster Negadon itself is a little too blank and personality-free for that.

On the other hand, if you like well-executed nerd folk art (and I do), then you've definitely got to watch Negadon. The attention to detail in this short makes the Köchel Catalogue look like a shopping list scrawled on the back of a Starbucks receipt. The retro-future itself is flawless, from the celebratory hot-air balloons right down to the rocker switches in the robot cockpit, and the color and atmosphere really are just like period film stock. Even the posters have authentic period-style fold lines. A few more references of this sort are listed in the Wikipedia entry.

The story, set in "Showa 100" (reigned over, one assumes, by a 124-year-old Emperor Hirohito), is pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a 25-minute kaiju homage: humans do something inadvisedly scientific, a monster is awakened, an ex-scientist with science-related pain in his past is persuaded to return to science in order to defeat the monster. Unfortunately, though, the monster itself is disappointing. It's a floating, quasi-mechanical thing that works very well in CGI but doesn't have much in the way of character. I would have greatly preferred a digital recreation of a guy in a rubber suit, even if that meant enduring a bit more of the Thunderbirdsy feel of the humans here.

The robot is delightful, though.

The disk also includes an interview with the director, some wireframe-to-final "making of" shots, and two older kaiju-in-CGI shorts of his -- the latter two of which will make you realize just how important and marvellous the dingy-but-rich Showascope is. One thing it doesn't include is subtitles or a soundtrack in English, which I presume means that US distributors Central Park Media are still working on it. You have to wonder how they plan to handle it. If I were running the project, I'd commission two English versions: one that was faithful to the original and, in dub form, performed by decent voice actors, and one that was completely over-the-top US-company-recuts-Gidora-style craziness, performed by shameless hams. (I'd no doubt regret my decision given that trying to intentionally produce period inanity usually just leads to modern banality, but that's still what I'd do. And then I'd ride my unicorn to the moon!)

P.S. According to the schedule at the bottom of the Japanese site, you can see it on the big screen at Tollywood in Shimokitazawa between the 8th and 28th of April, as part of the "New Generation Animation Festival" (新世代アニメーションまつり).

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