DVD REVIEW: THE DAY TOTO BECAME GAMERA
Author: Robert Saint John
Source: Kadokawa Entertainment
DVD Region 2 (Japan)
Release date: April 21, 2006
Price: 1575 Yen (approx $13.50 US)
Official Japanese Site: Gamera.jp
In the wake of the popularity of “Making of” DVDs such as 2001’s THE MATRIX REVISITED and promotional items such as 2004’s GODZILLA BATTLE HISTORY, the Japanese market for such releases seems to have taken off in the past year. While the U.S. market sees very few such releases (2005’s KING KONG: PETER JACKSON’S PRODUCTION DIARIES, for example), it has become increasingly standard in Japan to produce these relatively short, inexpensive “preview” or “making of” DVDs and release them just prior to the opening of the actual feature. This seems especially true of big budget, effects heavy extravaganzas such as SUNSET ON THE THIRD STREET (Always- Sanchome no Yumi), THE LAST LOVE SONG ON THIS LITTLE PLANET (Saishu Heiki Kanojo, aka SHE, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON), and TETSUJIN 28GO. Last year saw the release of such DVD titles as “Yokai Daisenso – Aru Natsu no Bokenki” for THE GREAT YOKAI WAR, “Yamato Fujo! Document of Otokotachi no Yamato” for YAMATO, and SAMURAI COMMANDO: MISSION 1549 OPERATION ROMEO (Sengoku Jieitai 1549 Operation Romeo) for SAMURAI COMMANDO: MISSION 1549.
It seems that this promotional method of reaching out directly to the Japanese theatergoer has been both effective and even profitable. Perhaps it is a reflection of the differences in usage (when compared to the U.S.) of home entertainment as opposed to the internet as a source for trailers and other promotional materials. It’s also likely reflective of the same Japanese “collecting” mindset which results in theater exclusive collectibles and the elaborate packaging that accompanies many of their DVD box sets and truly special editions.
Riding this wave of popularity, Kadokawa Entertainment released the DVD GAMERA THE BRAVE: THE DAY TOTO BECAME GAMERA (Chiisaki Yusha Tachi: Gamera – Toto Ga Gamera Ni Natta Hi) on April 21, a week in advance of the release of the film. The disc features glimpses both forward and back at 40 years of the giant monster, but is primarily focused on GAMERA THE BRAVE. The DVD is a Region 2 NTSC disc, 4:3 aspect ratio, with no subtitles, and comes in a standard Amaray case with no significant inserts. Upon popping the DVD into the player, the viewer is greeted with a menu that looks like a cross between the movie’s website from a few months ago, and the popular Gamera blog. Those familiar with the blog will recognize the official mascot, Totogametarou, the stuffed Gamera plush who has taken on a life of his own these past few months. Totogametarou takes the role of a mostly unobtrusive guide throughout the DVD.
The highlight of the disc is a 30 minute feature on GAMERA THE BRAVE, broken into 5 segments. First, it opens with the original 1 minute theatrical teaser that premiered in late 2005. Next up is a behind-the-scenes on location visit to the seaside village of Iseshima in Mie Prefecture. This segment serves to introduce young Toru Aizawa (Ryo Tomioka), the grief-stricken boy who discovers the mysterious egg. We then meet Kanji Tsuda, who plays his father Kousuke. As the segment establishes the back story of the film, the viewer is treated to almost the full opening sequence from the film in which “Papa Gamera” faces off against three Gyaos monsters in 1973.
The next segment introduces 14 year old actress Kaho, who stars as Toru’s friend and neighbor Mai Nishio, and includes a sequence from the film in which Toru first introduces his new flying turtle to the amazed Mai. Next, Totogametarou takes to the soundstage to meet special effects director Isao Kaneko, and witness the filming of the scene in which the rapidly growing Toto has his first fateful meeting with the film’s other monster, Zedus. The feature concludes in a segment that previews Toto (now Gamera) as he returns for a rematch against Zedus in downtown Nagoya. All in all, this is a great feature, even without subtitles, and treats the viewer to over 10 minutes of scenes directly from GAMERA THE BRAVE.
Also included on the DVD:
• The final 1 minute, 30 second theatrical trailer
• The first 1 minute theatrical trailer
• A 7 minute feature on up-and-coming young idol and actress Kaho and her photoshoot for her just released special photobook Step In
• “Gamera Chronicles”, a 10 minute feature looking back at the film history of the world’s favorite giant flying turtle, from GAMERA (Daikaiju Gamera, U.S. title GAMMERA THE INVINCIBLE, 1965) to Shusuke Kaneko’s Gamera trilogy of the 90s. Each of the 11 films gets a turn, each proceeded by a statistics screen illustrating Gamera, his foes, and their respective size, weight and features. Not surprisingly, this leads up to what is essentially an advertisement for the upcoming US$400+ “Gamera 40th Anniversary DVD-Box: Project Z” 13 DVD set, due in August. This includes a glimpse of original Gamera molder Keizou Murase and creature creator Tomoo Haraguchi (of the more recent Gamera films) working on the life-size Gamera sculpture that will be used to create the 20cm Gamera figure extra and replica Gamera shell scale to be included with the set.
• Still images of GAMERA THE BRAVE 2006 merchandise, including the new single and theme song “Eternal Love” by mink, the next set of Gamera figures due from Konami in October, new Takara Gamera Microman sets, the latest set of Bandai Gamera figures, and the Soul of Chogokin Diecast Gamera.
In the end, US$15 plus shipping seems a little expensive for what is, essentially, a promotional item. It would have been a better value had it included the music video for mink’s “Eternal Love”, but that is not to be found here. But if, like this reviewer, you’re anxious to get an extended look at GAMERA THE BRAVE and can’t wait until later this year to see the film, then this DVD is for you. The trend of these preview DVDs will continue this year with SUBMERSION OF JAPAN 2006 VERSION NAVIGATE DVD (Nihon Chinbotsu 2006 Version Navigate DVD), to be released on 6/21/06, weeks in advance of Shinji Higuchi’s remake of the 1973 film SUBMERSION OF JAPAN, opening 7/15/06.