Johnathan Wright: Who he is and how he came to be
I grew up a chronic couch potato sadly lacking cable or a VCR. I spent weekday mornings watching old syndicated cartoons and Captain Kangaroo. Saturday mornings were for network cartoons and, if I was lucky, a trip to the single-screen movie house.
But always there was the search for old movies and the mighty Godzilla! I could usually count on a monster movie every other week, and nothing was better than a giant monster. Even after my folks got cable (they were nervous about me going to movies alone) I still checked the local stations for my Toho favorites. In 1985 my geek dreams came true when a new Godzilla movie came to theatres, and soon a new generation of movies followed.
My daily cartoon intake had always involved Japanese anime. The simplistic adventures of Speed Racer progressed to the more mature plot and characters of Star Blazers. But it was the military mecha of Macross and Gundam that captivated my attention. I started watching for the giant robot action, but was quickly moved by the drama of these soldiers and their lives. Japanese cartoons did not talk down to me the way American animation often did; anime was a respected art form there, and watching imports made me feel like a connoisseur.
It was this love of the genre that brought me to begin work on “Mecha vs. Kaiju.” I wanted to create a setting that would capture all the things I loved about Japanese popular culture. For inspiration I suggest the following:
Showa Era Godzilla.
Godzilla movies are separated into different eras that mirror the eras of the Japanese Emperor. The original Godzilla came out during the reign of the Showa Emperor Hirohito, so all the movies from 1956 to 1976 share this name. Though they all vary in quality, from profound to downright silly, they are all essential viewing.
Gundam 0079/Zeta Gundam/Gundam ZZ/Char’s Counterattack.
I can’t help it, I like the old school animation, and the original Gundam series are some of the best representations of how the military would integrate real robots onto the battlefield. Unlike the “super robots” of the early 70s, or the custom mecha of later Gundam series, these mecha looked like they could actually exist.
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
This 2003 movie was the main inspiration for the shape of the Mecha Assault Force, the organization detailed in our first boo. If you want to see how a military organization devoted to the defense of Japan against giant monsters would look like, this is another must see.
There is a new generation of filmmakers who, like me, grew up with this rich compost of Japanese pop culture. Pacific Rim is a new vision of the battle of Mecha vs. Kaiju, and it is a winner.