In 1965, a black-and-white movie was made in order to cash in on the success of Godzilla. That would star a legendary friend of all children known as Gamera.
Okay, Gamera can be considered Japan's most famous non-Toho monster around. He is essentially a giant turtle that spins around and saves Earth from danger on a usual basis. Unlike other monsters, he was much more benevolent to humans.
It all started with the Showa series. Aside from the first movie, the movies were in color and usually had Gamera fight other monsters. While not as popular as Godzilla, Gamera managed to become a moderate success. The series abruptly stopped in 1971 when Daiei Film, the company that was making them, filed for bankruptcy. Apart from a disappointing entry that was little more than a Clip Show, the Gamera franchise would be dormant for a couple decades.
The legacy of Gamera modestly carried on however, particularly in America. The first six films were shown constantly on local television stations in the 70s and 80s. The aforementioned eighth film Gamera: Super Monster aired on MTV at time when they rarely showed movies and was also released to local television. In the late 80s the seventh film Gamera vs. Zigra had its long overdue release along with differently edited/dubbed versions of four other Gamera films via airings on USA Network and local stations as well as video releases from new distributor Sandy Frank. Gamera was introduced to a new audience when the Sandy Frank versions aired as episodes of the series Mystery Science Theater 3000. On the show, it was derided for having too many cringe-worthy Gamera moments (One infamous scene had Gamera swing up and down a pole, Gymkata style), bad dubbing, and too much emphasis on the kids.
Then, the Heisei series came. After a long wait, it was decided that the Gamera series should be revived. A man named Shusuke Kaneko, currently famous for the Death Note movies, was chosen to direct a new Gamera trilogy. What we got was a drastic change from the previous series. The movies became much darker in tone. The monsters ended up becoming much more abstract than anything seen in a Kaiju movie. The trilogy has been praised by critics from both sides of the Pacific.
After that, the Heisei trilogy ended. It took 7 years for a new Gamera movie to come. Gamera The Brave, the franchise's lone (as of yet) contribution to the "Millennium" era of kaiju, attempted to be more like the Showa films while still keeping the Heisei trilogy's tone. It tells the story of a younger Gamera named Toto by a young boy called Toru Aizawa, who raises him from a hatchling, having to rise up to face the threat of a frilled lizard monster called Zedus.
With the exception of Gamera the Brave, all movies are available for free viewing at goohead.
Films in the Gamera Franchise include:
Showa Series (1965-1980)
- Giant Monster Gamera (1965)
- Gamera vs. Barugon (1966)
- Gamera VS Gyaos (1967)
- Gamera vs. Viras (1968)
- Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)
- Gamera VS Jiger (1970) (a.k.a. Gamera vs. Monster X)
- Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)
- Gamera: Super Monster (1980)
Heisei Series (1995 - 1999)
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
- Gamera 2 Advent of Legion (1996)
- Gamera 3 Awakening of Irys (1999)
Millenium Series (2006)
(These are the Japanese titles of the official films. The names vary in regional release.)
The Showa series contains examples of:
- AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: The earlier Titra dubs insist on pronouncing Gamera's name as "Guh-MARE-uh".
- Actor Allusion: The scene near the end of Gamera vs. Guiron with Kondo's glasses falling down his nose was a reference to a trademark pose the actor, Kon Omura, did in his comedy routines and ads. Since these all aired in Japan and he is very obscure outside of his home country, most people outside Japan just tend to see the scene as bizarre.
- Adults Are Useless: Embarrassingly so.
- Alien Invasion: Destroy All Planets, Gamera vs. Zigra and Gamera: Super Monster. Subverted in Gamera vs. Guiron when a pair of kids "invade" an alien planet, forcing Gamera to come and rescue them.
- Artistic License Physics: Gamera is 60 meters tall, but weighs only 80 tons. This mass ratio is ridiculous when compared to other Kaiju, such as Godzilla, who is at least 50 meters and weighs at least 20,000 tons.
- Atlantis: Where Gamera comes from. Only briefly implied in the first movie.
- Batman Can Breathe in Space: And so can Gamera. (The rocket exhaust from his leg-holes apparently works without air, too.)
- BFS: Not quite a sword, but Guiron does have a big effin' blade sticking out of his head.
- Big-Budget Beef-Up: Gamera vs. Barugon was made as an A-list film and it clearly shows compared to all the other films. No kids, darker and edgier, the suits look awesome, an actual story attempt ect.
- The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Gamera does this to Guiron's head and it leads to the beast's destruction.
- Even more so with Jiger.
- Breath Weapon: Gamera breathes flamethrower flames from his mouth, Barugon unleashes a freezing mist from his tongue, Gyaos can spit a sonic beam that slices things like a razor and Jiger spews an "exo-skeletonizing ray."
- Captain Ersatz: The Xenon/Zanon mothership in Gamera: Super Monster isn't even a Captain Ersatz of an Imperial Star Destroyer from Star Wars, it just IS one.
- Darker and Edgier: The first sequel, Gamera vs. Barugon, didn't feature any children, opting instead for a plot that starts out with three men trying to recover a giant opal (which is actually Barugon's egg) from the New Guinea jungle, and ultimately had some pretty grim material including a graphic death by scorpion sting.
- Death by Materialism: Onodera in Gamera vs. Barugon.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: Generating a searing rainbow out of the spikes on his back was Barugon's main attack.
- Everything's Even Worse with Sharks: Zigra.
- Fantastic Voyage Plot / Swallowed Whole: In Gamera vs. Monster X, Monster X injects Gamera with debilitating parasites that turn Gamera's skin a sickly white. The kids must venture inside Gamera's body to hunt down the parasites and wipe them out.
- Follow the Leader
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: There seems to be a suggestive scene in "Barugon" where Karen licks the blood off Keisuke's arm after a fist fight. From the camera angling some see it as her pleasuring him orally. And possibly another scene later where she's upset, and sitting, and turns to Keisuke, who is standing up. Cue her head being in another suggestive spot.
- Gamera, according to the producers, flies by igniting his own flatulence. You can't make this stuff up, kids.
- Giant Flyer: Gamera, Gyaos and Jiger.
- Gratuitous English: Almost every scene with the Inuit Chief in the first movie has him speaking in particularly embarrassing dialect of Engrish. To a lesser extent in the scenes with U.S. Air-Force personnel.
- It doesn't help the General sounds like Buddy Hackett.
- His Name Is--: Happens during the opening scene of Gamera vs. Viras. Just before the Virians can finish their distress signal, the ship explodes and the title card (Gamera) appears on screen. More or less ruined in the AIP TV version, where the American title card (Destroy All Planets) appears instead.
- Kill It with Water: Barugon.
- Lost in Translation: The alien women in Gamera vs. Guiron repeatedly refer to the planet they're on, and the other planets in space, as "stars," much to the chagrin of Tom Servo in the MST3K audience. Japanese, like German, doesn't have separate words for "star" and "planet"; it uses the same word for both.
- Meaningful Name: Guiron/Guillon is named after the guillotine. Considering what he does to Space Gyaos...
- Gamera's name is a combination of the Japanese word for turtle ("kame") and "ra", the character that ends the names of so many other Japanese monsters (Gojira, Mosura, Gidora, Mogera, Gaira, Gezora, Hedora, etc.).
- Likewise, Barugon's name is a combination of baru (an extinct genus of crocodile) and dragon.
- Monster Is a Mommy / Female Monster Surprise: Jiger.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Gamera vs. Guiron's Space Gyaos.
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Guiron the alien knife-headed bulldog-lizard; Zigra the alien Hitler shark; Viras the spear-headed alien squid; Barugon the lizard that fires rainbows from its back...
- ...and most importantly, Gamera the prehistoric, fire-breathing, rocket-propelled turtle with a soft spot for children.
- Sea Monster: Viras and Zigra (alien sea monsters, to boot).
- Smug Snake: Onodera in Gamera vs. Barugon is an exceptionally unpleasant man. Waving a gun at some friendly New Guinea villagers is the least of his crimes in the film.
- Stock Footage: Pretty much every film uses some.
- The recap in Gamera vs. Barugon.
- The end credits in Gamera vs. Gyaos.
- In Gamera vs. Viras, there is a scene where the Virans watch stock footage of Gamera's fights in previous films in order to find out his weakness. Later, they mind-control Gamera and make him destroy things. Nearly all of the footage of Gamera rampaging is taken from the first two films.
- In Gamera vs. Guiron, the space babes probe a kid's mind in order to find out who Gamera is. Stock footage ensues.
- All of Gamera: Super Monster's fight scenes are taken from the older movies. And unlike Godzilla's Revenge, there aren't any new fights mixed in. The film also manages to incorporate footage from Space Battleship Yamato and Galaxy Express 999. Wait, what?
- Swiss Cheese Security
- Too Dumb to Live: Onodera from Gamera vs. Barugon. That's right: Try and snatch the giant diamond... The one explicitly being used as monster bait.
- Too Long; Didn't Dub: The children's nickname for police officer Kondo, "Kon-chan", was left untouched in the Sandy Frank dub - where it makes no sense. This led to a running gag in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode he appeared in where the cast mishears it as "Cornjob".
- Underdogs Never Lose: The plots of the Showa films usually involved Gamera's opponent have a major advantage over him then engage and defeat him in combat, Gamera retreats. The protagonists discover the opponent's Achilles' Heel and attempt to defeat the opponent with it but it only weakens it or backfires. Gamera returns and uses the opponent's weakness to his own advantage, defeating the Monster.
- Wolverine Publicity: Gamera gets top billing in Gamera Vs. Barugon, even though he has almost nothing to do with the plot.
The Heisei trilogy contains examples of:
- Ascended Extra: Not an extra per se, but in the Showa series Gyaos was just another member of Gamera's Rogues Gallery, no more or less prominent than the rest. In the Heisei films, Gyaos is elevated to full-on Arch-Nemesis status.
- Alien Invasion: The Legion in Gamera 2: Advent of Legion.
- Atlantis: Where Gamera, the Gyaos and Iris came from.
- Battle in the Rain: Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.
- SFX director Shinji Higuchi stated in an interview that the main reason he wanted to do the rain scene was so he could see the female characters get their clothes wet.
- Bee People: Legion.
- Big Damn Heroes: In Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, Gamera thrusts his hand over Nagamine and the others, shielding her from Gyaos' sonic beam.
- Blade Below the Shoulder: Gamera can extend spikes out of his elbows but it isn't really used much.
- Breath Weapon: Again, Gamera and Gyaos, though Gamera's flamethrower breath has been turned into projectile fireballs.
- Butt Monkey: Osako, who, no matter what he does, an inspector, a security guard, or a wino, monster events will come to him. He does grow a pair and applies to work again on a case in the middle of Gamera 3.
- Call Back: A number of major and minor characters from Gamera 1 return in 3, Mayami, Mr. Saito, the snarky 'monster adminstor' and the Butt Monkey Osako.
- This gets redone in Gamera 3 during Gamera's fight with Hyper Gyaos, but Gamera does it accidentally, and the whole scene is given a much darker, non-heroic tone.
- Cliff Hanger: Gamera 3, and thus the whole Heisei trilogy, ended with one of these.
- Combat Tentacles: Iris.
- Comic Book Adaptation: From Dark Horse Comics in the mid '90s. Taking place after Guardian of the Universe, it featured Gamera fighting another Gyaos and new versions of Zigra and Viras.
- Continuity Reboot
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Gamera's Mana Beam. While his most powerful weapon and capable of completely destroying the powerful Legion in one shot, utilizing it drains the Earth's life energy and will result in the Gyaos' numbers skyrocketing to massive levels.
- Darker and Edgier
- Gamera becomes more savage looking with each film.
- Dark Is Not Evil: Very much played with. On the one hand the Gyaos and Legion are the antagonists but its made clear they are out to survive and don't do their stuff out of malice. On the other hand Gamera looks nicer compared to them and is out to protect the planet and saves people...until the 3rd movie. He looks and acts more savage when hunting Gyaos and is alright in killing humans that get caught in his fights...however he does his damnest to save Ayana from Iris and looks over her in concern when they try to revive her. Certainly averted in Ayana's nightmare with the evillest looking Gamera of all.
- Gamera 3 being the biggest what with it explaining that because Gamera used the Mana Cannon in part 2 more Gyaos are appearing, as well as using simple fire balls cost mana. It also demonstrates that for good or not, a monster out to kill worse monsters will cause major damage in a city. Gamera 3 is also more human driven where it's about people in a world with monsters and Gamera is the best one.
- Demoted to Extra: Not so much extra, and he is VERY much a major force, but Gamera got a lot less screen time in the third film with only two scenes.
- While he's not shown much onscreen, it mentioned often he's fighting off the Gyaos all over the world for much of the film.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Each film is very different in terms of how the monsters are handled. In the first Gamera and Gyaos were created by an earlier race, very fantasy-sci-fi like. The second, the ancient race is never touched upon and the Legion are space monsters, a very sci-fi feeling. The third one heavily touches on mythology with comparing Gamera and Gyaos to the Four Beasts of Chinese mythology.
- Elemental Punch: Gamera's Plasma Fist in Gamera 3.
- Enigmatic Minion: Asakura Mito is partially this in Gamera 3 to the government, she tries to take control of Iris thinking Gamera is the enemy...and gets crushed for it.
- Evil Counterpart: Iris and Ayana to Gamera and Asagi, though Ayana isn't evil as so much angry and misguided.
- Fantastic Nuke: In Gamera 2, when the Legion Flower launches its seeds into space, it does so with the force of a nuclear explosion. Gamera stops one from doing so near the beginning of the movie, but when he tries to stop a second one, it literally blows up in his face, utterly destroying the city and killing the mighty turtle (he gets better).
- First Law of Resurrection: Gamera in Gamera 2.
- The Four Gods: Gamera = Genbu, Iris/Gyaos = Suzaku.
- Gag Dub: The ADV release features assorted scenes dubbed in this fashion as DVD extras (Gamera Texarkana).
- Giant Equals Invincible: Subverted. Gamera is easily shot down by missiles and military forces repeatedly cause notable damage to the Legion Queen.
- Giant Flyer: Every monster in the trilogy.
- Godzilla Threshold: Legion forces Gamera and mankind to cross this in the second film. She's so powerful and her kind such a threat to the planet that the military has to backup Gamera for them to have a chance to stop her. Even this proves to not be enough to stop her and Gamera ultimately has to resort to his strongest weapon, the Mana Beam, to kill her. This ironically forces him to cross it further in the third film because it not only revives the Gyaos but makes them multiply to staggering numbers to the point Gamera has to disreguard humanity to hunt them down and destroy them.
- Good Is Not Nice: For the first two films Gamera smashed stuff but he was doing it to stop monsters and he was good at not killing people. Come Gamera 3 and it seems like Gamera is more of a knight templar where isn't worried about people getting caught in his fights. Either a)he has become more savage because there are more Gyaos b) his link with Asagi/humanity made him more savage c) the places he trotted through were usually evacuated so no one expected him to get 80,000 people killed when he fought Hyper Gyaos one night, or a combo of all of them.
- Hachiko: Gamera accidently torches the statue--a symbol that he has lost his connection with humanity in Gamera 3.
- I Am Legion: Guess who.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Gamera in Gamera 3.
- Left Hanging
- Light Is Not Good: Iris, compared to the more savage looking Gamera, looks like the more peaceful creature. it isn't. Also the large Legion was a light gray and the antagonist of the story.
- Manipulative Bastard: Iris. It pretty much used Ayana's hatred of Gamera for its own personal gain.
- Metamorphosis Monster: Irys from Gamera 3: Revenge of Irys goes from a strange-looking yet somehow adorable snail-like creature with tons of tentacles to a giant bipedal monster with tentacles with spears on the ends, swords for arms, and a cone-shaped head with a single glowing eyeball.
- Naughty Tentacles: The human-sized version of Iris gets a little too friendly with Ayana at one point...
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: BRUTALLY deconstructed and actually explained.
- Well, except for the Plasma Fist...Though it's not that weird it was merely Gamera re-taking his own element back, mana he originally accumulated and since he suddenly had a limb missing he had a place to store it.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Gamera 3's Hyper Gyaos and the briefly-seen Nightmare Gamera.
- Not So Stoic: Legion who after getting its head damaged uses energy whips and fights more frenzied.
- Oh Crap: Gamera when Legion gets mad and wields energy whips.
- Parental Abandonment: It is revealed through a flashback that Ayana's parents were killed in Gamera's final battle with Gyaos in Guardian of the Universe. By the third movie, she swears revenge and ends up releasing Iris.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: When Legion gets its head pincers ripped off it gets pissed and uses energy whips.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Iris.
- Sea Monster: Gamera.
- The Smurfette Principle: Surprisingly averted. While technically Legion, Gyaos(and by extension, probably Irys) are genderless, Gyaos was played by a female actor specifically to give it a feminine quality, while Legion tends to be referred to with female pronouns due to being the queen. In a sense, this means that all the monsters besides Gamera are female(ish).
- Wave Motion Gun: Gamera's Mana Beam.
- We Come in Peace, Shoot to Kill: In the first film, the military gets which of the giant monsters they should actually be trying to destroy very wrong. The Gyaos are not just a nuisance, and Gamera is trying to stop them -- he's tremendously destructive and his victories come at a high cost in human life, but given that the Gyaos wiped out the civilization that preceded humanity, he's definitely the lesser of two evils.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Justified. Gamera has an extremely powerful weapon built into his chest that could utterly obliterate Legion, or anything else, in one shot. He uses it as a last resort because it drastically drains the Earth's life energy and causes the Gyaos' numbers to grow to staggering numbers.
- You Shall Not Pass: Gamera holds off the Legion at Sendai.
The Millenium series contains examples of:
See: Gamera the Brave
And, naturally, all incarnations contain:
- Turtle Power: Duh.