So (inhales) here we go. A full-on, massive breakdown of G-Fest 2019 from my POV. Pics to come *gestures vaguely* whenever I feel initiated to work within the confines of MZ's format and upload the pics to an image-hosting site and get hyperlinks and post them in here...
I got in on Thursday, but late. I didn't arrive at the Crowne until around 11, so mostly that was just meeting people I've talked to on here, Facebook, and podcasts for years, but in-person for the first time.FRIDAY
I started the day with a workout at 6:30 AM
, where I bumped into Shusuke Kaneko looking a little lost and helped steer him back to the lobby, and then the elevators because he was actually just looking for his room. For those not up-to-speed on what happened with his arrival at the convention, G-Fest never gave him the full name of the hotel, its address, or his itinerary for the weekend, which you need for TSA to allow you on your flight. He couldn't get in touch with anyone about getting these answers, missed his flight and then had to book a last-minute flight and arrived late, jet-lagged, exhausted and confused.
At 9 AM
I went down to registration, another rather unfortunate situation with not anywhere near as much signage or staff to assist as there should have been, leading to a lot of confusion, crowding, people standing in the wrong lines (ie, pre-register vs buying a pass at the door line confusion), and general disarray.
At 9:45 AM
, I got into line to meet Akira Takarada for his autograph signing set to begin at 10 AM. Given who this guy is, I have to say, it was WILDLY disappointing that just a scant 15 minutes before he was set to begin signing, I was the third person in line. It's really a microcosm of honestly this fandom as a whole, that the line to meet one of the stars of the entire franchise was three people deep (oh, and Kaneko's line, which he DID show up for despite the evident haggard look on his face, was non-existent at this point), while the line for the dealer's room stretched down the entire length of a convention center hallway (4 ballrooms) and curved INTO one of the ballrooms itself. Fights nearly broke out about people's places in line, with someone joining a friend at his spot while everyone started shouting at him that they'd been waiting for those doors to open since 3 AM. People waited 7+ hours for a toy room to open, and then fought about their spots, while I actually forgot to purchase my ticket for Takarada's autograph, so I had to hop out of line to go get it and when I came back everyone offered to let me return to my original place in line.
From around 10:30 to 11:15
or so, I kind of puttered around the convention, just looking at exhibits and things. This was some wasted energy that I wouldn't really do again. At this point of the day, everything had just opened so it was all SUPER crowded. I went back to my room, and unloaded a few items, grabbed a bite, made some coffee, and went back down to the convention...
, I attended a panel about Sekizawa and Kimura, and how their styles differed and why. Overall it was an okay panel (and I'll get to the positives in just a moment), but there was a LOT of conjecture ("It seems like" kind of stuff that left me a tad dubious about the research the panelists did...as well as one of them citing Wikipedia as a source at one point) AND there were WAY too many interruptions from people in the crowd. This was troubling. I'd been at the con-proper for about 3 hours and I'd heard about one of the guests getting somewhat shafted, been mildly depressed by people's priorities, dealt with overcrowding, and sat in on a frankly unprofessional panel. I was still having fun because I was getting to meet people, and Takarada was awesome to chat with for a couple minutes and to re-iterate something from earlier, the way the con treats kids and people with disabilities is SO HEARTWARMING....but I was beginning to wonder if maybe this convention would get a little dull over the next few days.
Some of the cool stuff about this panel though, they mentioned that Matango has 7 characters, and there are 7 deadly sins, and that the characters may not fit in PERFECTLY with personifying those sins, but now I want to re-watch Matango with that in my mind. Also, they talked at decent length about Godzilla vs. Gigan because it was one of the only scripts both Sekizawa and Kimura worked on together. They highlighted what they (and others, including David Kalat) had perceived as the parts of the script each man contributed to most and how the movie, on a script level, is really quite brilliant and a wonderful mesh of Kimura's cynicism, anti-establishment attitude, and anti-corporate beliefs, and Sekizawa's more optimistic and humanist take on life.
From here on, with really the END of the panel focusing-in on the Gigan stuff, which was the best part of the panel, the convention only got BETTER.
I re-visited some of the exhibitions and made my first foray into the dealer's room. The crowds had thinned considerably, as people started settling into panels, and I scored a Bandai Anguirus for my son, who's been DYING for an Anguirus toy, and I haven't been able to find one on eBay for under $45, which is outrageous to me personally for some plastic my 4-year-old is gonna smash into other plastic. I saw a few, overpriced as many things are in the dealer's room, but grabbed one off a table and was told it was only $20 because it didn't have a tag. SOLD IN A HEARTBEAT.
At 2 PM
, I attended a panel about Bandai and Tsuburaya, that focused on how the partnership between the two has changed the Ultra shows over the years and turned them into glorified commercials. It was pretty informative, while still saying that despite these negative parts, there have been good shows and films made, and the panelists had some solid deadpan humor. Still a tad too many interruptions from the crowd.
At 3 PM
, I attended a panel from the Kaiju Transmissions Podcast, about Godzilla vs Biollante, 30 years since it's release. Lots of great BTS info, very professional, very well-done, I was super impressed. This will get uploaded to their show in the near-future and while there is a bit in the middle where you may lose something because it's discussing concept art, the first half will provide a ton of background information on the movie and how it came to be.
At 4 PM
I went to a panel hosted by JD, that was an interview with Mineko Kawakita, daughter of Koicih, and Yoshikazu Ishii, who Godzilla fans would know most as the guy who was the effects-director on the Godzilla, Anguirus, Rodan, and King Caesar fight from GFW. They spoke at length about Kawakita and what it was like living and/or working with him. Mineko said he never really made a big deal out of being who he was outside of the film industry, at home he was just dad, though he may not have been home SUPER often because of his work. She said she used to take her friends to set with her occasionally though, when they'd find out who he was, and one of her most memorable moments was when she was on the set of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, and Ghidorah gets his head blown off, a splash of the gold glitter spray splashed all over a cat that had wandered onto the set and it horrified her friends. Ishii for his part talked about how Kawakita would always push him to be better with his effects work and never be satisfied with something. Ishii also talked a little about a movie he screened this weekend, Attack of the Giant Teacher
, but more on that later.
The rest of Friday was going out to dinner with friends and hanging on the patio and drinking and swapping stories.SATURDAY
For those complaining about the heat, the AC BROKE on Saturday. It was okay on Friday, and totally fine on Sunday, but Saturday was a sweltering inferno.
Got a slightly later start than I had wanted and missed the Yokai panel.
At 10 AM
went to the Takarada interview. As klen mentioned, it was a solid interview, if a bit meandering. The story of how he was shot by Russian soldiers (POST-WWII though, just to offer a correction) and had to have the bullet dug out of his side after the wound got infected was crazy. I remember the story itself vividly, so I can recount it later if anyone wishes. Somewhat unfortunately, the rest of the interview was stuff we'd heard before. His foray into acting was interesting though, with him saying Akira Kurosawa is the one who pulled him out of being just a stagehand and pushed him into the acting school Toho ran. Then he was asked a question about the movies he did between Gojira and Mothra vs. Godzilla and I think maybe something got lost in translation because he spoke about the Raymond Burr version of Gojira...
One cool quote though "I am not a member of any political party. I just cherish harmony and peace, and I spread this message via Godzilla."
At 11 AM
, I stuck it out in the boiler-room....errrr...Ballroom 1, for the Shusuke Kaneko interview. THIS. WAS. AMAZING.
He basically spent the first HALF of it trash-talking Gamera. He spoke about how he got into moviemaking in general because when he was a kid, he would go to Godzilla movies and thought they were really fun. When he'd get home, he would write his own mangas, but his mom told him his artwork sucked and he should consider pursuing something else in life. He said she has never told him one of his movies is bad, so he thinks she must be more pleased with his abilities as a director than an artist. When he saw the preview for Godzilla vs. Mothra 92, he sent a letter to Shogo Tomiyama, asking if he could direct the movie. Tomiyama said they already had a director in place but offered to have a drink with Kaneko and discuss...this was when Daiei contacted him and said he should discuss making a kaiju movie with them. He went to meet with Daiei and they asked him to do Gamera and he asked if instead they could do Daimajin because Gamera is stupid and for dumb kids and Daimajin is actually good, but Daiei said they wanted to re-boot Gamera with the success Godzilla was having. When he went home and told his wife he got a gig directing a Gamera movie his wife said, "So....you didn't get Godzilla??" He said he was at an impasse with how to even start with a Gamera movie, thinking he was just going to make a comedy/parody because he always thought Gamera was dumb, and hated things like Gyaos being named Gyaos because a kid said that's what the monster sounded like. He passed the first draft off to a friend of his to write and said when it came back, he was shocked that the script was actually GOOD, and for the first time realized that he could make a real movie with Gamera even though he thought it was dumb that the creature was just a turtle. He said he then spent basically the rest of the production, up to just scant weeks before the movie was released, fighting Daiei to keep the movie tonally the way HE wanted it, and fought against their wishes to incorporate more children and more camp. He also said because he was so worried that they might convince others to do it their way instead of sticking true to his vision, he got VERY involved in every piece of the project, including the special effects sequences and editing all the footage. He actually said this was why the movies got better as they went along...on the first one he over-extended, trying to make sure his vision was adhered to, and it was only after its success that everyone finally realized he was right and he could back off more and let people do the jobs to which they were best suited and he could focus more on his own strengths.
He also talked about GMK and though much of it was stuff we've already heard (about Anguirus and Varan), he did mention a meeting he had with Toho. Tomiyama had asked him to begin working on the movie so he came up with an idea and a script and everything and the board was skittish. Tomiyama offered a meeting, saying Kaneko had already started working hard, and so the board agreed and Kaneko prepared for a LENGTHY discussion. He said the meeting lasted something like 15 minutes, most of which was dedicated to the Toho brass discussing whether or not to even continue making Godzilla movies at all, because returns on G2k and GxM were so low. When Tomiyama finally convinced them to let Kaneko make his movie since he'd already begun some work on it, they basically just told Kaneko he had to use the kaiju they suggested or he could instead not make the movie at all.
, I went to a screening of Notzilla
, a parody film that was mostly funny and had some decent tokusatsu moments. Full review: https://letterboxd.com/jellydonut25/film/notzilla
Then I went back to the dealer's room, found a Gamera toy for $20, and grabbed an autograph from Kaneko.
Then at 2 PM
I went to a screening of Yoshikazu Ishii's Attack of the Giant Teacher
. It was not great, but not bad. It could have been shorter...but he brought one of the props from the movie and he was very nice and talked a lot about the making of the movie. Full review, including some of his making-of stories: https://letterboxd.com/jellydonut25/fil ... t-teacher/
At 4 PM
I went to Ed Godziszewski and Steve Ryfle's Godzilla's Revenge panel. Very informative and a great look at a wildly underrated movie with Ryfle basically saying he'd always loved it and Ed telling how he was 15 and had made his dad take him to the drive in to see it and it was the third film of a triple feature and he sat horrified and embarrassed by the movie as his dad's mood just turned completely sour. He has since gone on to appreciate it, but his first viewing was terrible. I think this is going to be an episode of Kaiju Transmissions in the near future also.
At 5:15 PM
, Daisuke Sato screened 15 minutes of footage from Howl from Beyond the Fog with deep apologies. He knew the full film would not be completed, but he had hoped to bring more of it for us to see, had hoped to have some dialogue, and told us he did the absolute best he could with what he had, and that he was still putting it together during his flight over. This was basically a highlight reel that got everyone PUMPED for the full version. The full version is supposedly going to run around 40 minutes or so, and he has plans to release it online and is even hoping for a blu-ray release. It's atmospheric and moody and seems soulful and emotional and the kaiju looks really cool. He said to expect the movie to be finished in November.
At 6 PM
, I stuck in the screening room for a screening of Lake Michigan Monster, which, briefly was like if Steve Hillebrand directed a live-action 1950s monster movie. This was hilarious and really well-done. The humor all landed very well. It could have been a smidge shorter, and I could see how the style might wear one out since the movie is FULL-LENGTH, but it was very good. I'll have a full review later.
Then I ate dinner in about 6 minutes and we headed out for Kaiju Crescendo at 9 PM
. FAR AND AWAY THE ABSOLUTE BEST THING ABOUT THE CONVENTION. This thing was absolutely SPECTACULAR. I'm totally blown away. For the entire day after I was giddy. A full-on symphony played the suites from Rodan, Son of Godzilla, The Three Treasures, The Mysterians, and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla 74...INCLUDING the King Caesar song which was done so fantastically, it BROUGHT THE DAMN HOUSE DOWN. Then there was an intermission and act two was Michiru Oshima playing her Godzilla theme and suites from Megaguirus, MG, and SOS. Oh and also she composed a brand new piece of music just for this event. OH AND ALSO she treated it like a damn-near rock concert and asked everyone to stomp and clap to the beat of her Godzilla theme a la Queen's "We Will Rock You". OH AND ALSO it was really cool to see that her entire family came out from JAPAN to support her and sat in one of the boxes and threw her flowers and everything. This BLEW ME ABSOLUTELY AWAY. It got over around midnightish and we just stood in the lobby for almost another hour discussing it before heading back to the hotel and out to the patio and DISCUSSING IT MORE.SUNDAY
Sunday was an interesting day....
...first we sat in on Kaneko's second interview for a while at 10 AM
. It was okay, but it was all GMK-focused and all things we've all heard before. klen7 even said it got a little worse, as the translator really didn't know her pop culture or kaiju references, and so she would omit the names when Kaneko spoke of them and he even spent an entire couple minutes talking about the Hamtaro pre-cursor movies but then she never once mentioned those movies. I actually ducked out around 10:20 or so and headed over to the screening room for10:30 AM
...a screening of Great Buddha arrival. We were not at all prepared for the movie that this is. I thought it was going to be a padded-out attempt to remake the lost 1934 film, and add a story to it. Instead, it's a borderline experimental film, that features a lot of ponderous (in a good way) shots of a Buddha statue slowly making his way through Japan, and an extended sequence of 8 mm film with Buddhist monk funeral chanting over footage of people committing suicide. It also has a rocket bicycle and some funny comedy bits. I say this with affection: It's like the Asylum trying their hand at a David Lynch movie. Nothing can prepare you for it. It's madness....at least it is when it's being the movie that I'm pretty sure the director actually wanted to make and not just jamming in cameos for the sake of getting the kickstarter funded to get it made. It will clip along at this odd, stilted, ponderous pace with weird chanting and an insane narrative...and then it will fade to black and when it comes back, it's just a random cameo of a person talking into the camera for a bit and then none of that has anything to do with the movie. It's pretty obvious those were just crowbarred in. That's the worst part about the movie, but I still don't know what to make of it. Processing it still because it's so damned insane. I WAS wildly entertained though.
, I sat in on John LeMay's Kong Unmade panel for a bit...it was good and I'd definitely recommend his Kong Unmade book (as well as his Lost Kaiju Films book), but about 25 minutes into it, a friend texted me that Michiru Oshima was in the lobby meeting people and doing autographs so I bolted to get a pic and a signature and thank her for the amazing concert.
At 1 PM
I went to a Piano performance by Reiko Yamada, Akira Ifukube's top protege, in a dueling pianos style (I don't know who the other pianist was, they didn't do a great job of introducing him), and she played Ritmica Ostinata, a classical piece Ifukube composed and if you've never heard then do yourself a favor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzvpFzludYs
and she played it WITHOUT SHEET MUSIC IN FRONT OF HER. I was blown away. Then they also played parts of Symphonic Fury 3 and 5.
At 2 PM
I stuck around for an Ifukube panel from Erik Homenick, Ifukube's official biographer, and you can read like, his whole bio for free http://www.akiraifukube.org/home.htm
and Reiko Yamada sat in on the panel and shared some stories of his life. I think this is ANOTHER one that will be on Kaiju Transmissions soon.
Then I met Yoshikazu Ishii, and got a signed poster of Attack of the Giant Teacher from him, and I hit up the dealer's room one more time, though I didn't get anything. If I had brought more cash, I'd have bought a pair of the Miki Saegusa earrings Mineko Kawakita brought for sale, the were only $150 and they were the actual props used in the movie.
And that was G-Fest. At least until....
a screening at the Pickwick of Shusuke Kaneko's newest movie: Linking Love which features a young girl who wanted to be a J-Pop Idol Girl but now wants to be a rap battler, who then one day is practicing a rap battle against her dad because he ruined his marriage by being too obsessed with anime girls and while she's throwing some sick burns her dad's way, she accidentally says something that sounds like "abracadabra" and awakens a genie in a lamp in her room who then sends her back to the past where she has to figure out how to get her dad to not be obsessed with anime girls by turning her mom into a J-Pop icon and getting her dad to see the attraction of real girls and if she screws up too bad the Time Cop is going to lose his job. It's bonkers and fun and FUNNY and adorable. Back to the Future meets J-Pop. It could be a tad shorter, as there are just FULL songs from J-Pop idol group AKB-48.
And then THAT was G-Fest...
...except for the after-party, which got a little nuts.
And then for REALLY REAL...THAT was G-Fest.
I had an absolute blast. I don't know if I'll be able to swing it as a yearly thing (a flight, a hotel, I supported the concert Kickstarter, plus the ticket, plus Linking Love was, plus food, plus the autograph/meet-n-greet prices, plus merch...it was not a cheap trip, and I spent WAY less on merch than most people...and I also, due to keeping myself busy, didn't even each lunch most days), but I WILL definitely go back at some point. So very few low-lights that when I was asked "My least favorite thing" about the con as a whole, I honestly had a hard time thinking of what it was until I put REAL thought into it (it would be the disorganization with the registration and over-crowding when things first get going every day before everyone settles into the panels and the crowds die down enough that you can actually walk through the exhibition rooms and dealer's room).
So many highlights: seeing kids becoming fans, seeing some people who's day was totally made, seeing friends, getting some new and interesting tales from the movies, seeing new films that aren't available anywhere else, getting to meet Takarada and Kaneko and Oshima (and Ishii and Sato).
I could see how it could be less and less of a unique and fun experience if you attend every year, but would ABSOLUTELY RECOMMEND everyone who has it within their means attend at least one G-Fest.