GODZILLA APPEARS IN SUKAGAWA
Author: Benjamin Chaffins
It was reported in 2018 that a new short film would be released during Godzilla’s 64th anniversary. Indeed, a 14 minute video was created — although not available to the public. In Eiji Tsuburaya’s hometown of Sukagawa, a few crew members were able to produce this special video in honor of the late Eiji Tsuburaya. So, what exactly does this mean?
On January 11, 2019, the Eiji Tsuburaya Museum held an exhibit where attendees were able to witness the achievements of Tsuburaya along with this special video titled,“GODZILLA APPEARS IN SUKAGAWA (ゴジラ須賀川に現る, Gojira Sukagawa ni Genru). This special video contains live-action footage where Godzilla suddenly appears, attacking Sukagawa, and eventually battling with the maser tanks as seen in the Heisei and Millennium series. During Godzilla Fes 2018 in midtown Hibiya, the newly replicated Shodai (original) Godzilla 1954 suit made by Yuji Sakai was publicly shown. Little did we know that this suit would not only be used for the special video, but also for the Boss Coffee commercial shown as a special feature for GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS’ (2019) Japanese release.
When the announcement broke on social media, it was unknown who the talents were involved with the film, and mainly who would be directing it. Thanks to Toho and Hobby Japan, a documentary book made exclusively for the museum was released titled, Eiji Tsuburaya Museum Special Video Dream Challenge: Godzilla Appears in Sukagawa (円谷英二ミュージアム特別映像 ~夢の挑戦 ゴジラ須賀川に現る~, Tsuburaya Eiji Myūjiamu Tokubetsu Eizō ~Yume no Chōsen Gojira Sukagawa ni Arawaru~). For those who can read Japanese, this book includes interviews with the staff, behind-the-scenes photos, the making of the suit, and the storyboard.
Much like any project, a team is put together to establish art with their work. Produced by Shingo Kori, this film has raised a few eyebrows from fans all over the world, curious about this short product. Handling the director’s chair is none other than Kenji Suzuki, known for his special effects work with GODZILLA 2000, REBIRTH OF MOTHRA 3, and GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS. It’s surprising to learn that director Suzuki has made a comeback considering the man was replaced as fx director after GODZILLA VS. MEGAGUIRUS. The storyboard is handled by Shinji Nishikawa, the Godzilla suit actor is Kenya Saitou, photography by Keiichi Sakurai, art handled by Toshio Miike, lighting handled by Tamotsu Ito, prototype production and modeling supervision handled by Yuji Sakai, Godzilla suit production and operation handled by Moriaki Uematsu, special modeling handled by Hajime Ueno, special effects handled by Yasuji Iwata, and of course, Katsuro Onoue of SHIN GODZILLA was in the mix.
While it is unfortunate that this short work can only be seen at the museum, at least we can learn about this special video from those who made it. The story is basic: Godzilla just suddenly appears during the daytime in Sukagawa and goes on a rampage, doing battle with the maser troops at night in a fictitious city.
The suit underwent 8 stages of modeling works during pre-production. The first stage uses a 3D scan of the 30cm garage kit figure that Yuji Sakai made. The second stage is the output to suit size using Styrofoam. Stage 3 consists of each part being painted in gray with the details modified. Stage 4 is the completed prototype of the first Godzilla suit. Stage 5 introduces specialists in mold making, die cutting, and making detailed parts. Stage 6 is the fitting check for the suit by suit actors. Stage 7 is the joining, painting, and finishing of each part. Stage 8 is the completed Shodai Godzilla suit, while stage 9 was the delivery of the suit for shooting.
For some unknown reason, many fans just want a film where there are no human characters and for Godzilla only to be on screen. Lucky for them, this short actually gives them what they wanted. It’s a peaceful day in Sukagawa until Godzilla appears. With extras running for their lives, Godzilla is treated as he should be — a force of nature. There is a scene that hearkens back to the original in which a mother comforts her child as Godzilla continues his rampage. It’s very heartwarming to know Toho decided to shoot this film in full traditional practical effects using a suit, miniatures, a tail prop, maser tank props, and with modern VFX to help bring this project to life.
The question remains, will Toho ever decide to release this short video publicly so fans across the world can see it? That is truly unknown. At least with this article and photos attached, fans can rest easy knowing practical effects are still going strong and that Godzilla still reigns.