The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

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The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby Geno » Sat Jun 16, 2018 1:37 pm

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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby mbozzo » Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:55 pm

In his earlier films, Godzilla is a destroyer of Japan. He later became its protector in the 1960s. It continues until Godzilla 1985. He became a force of nature during the 1990s. He appeared in two American movies so far, (if you count the 1998 film) and there seem to be no stopping him for now. :wink:
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby TerranigmaFreak » Mon Jun 18, 2018 10:46 am

I don't agree with the original Gojira being nationalistic. It was clearly an anti-war film.

Shin Godzilla is easily the biggest offender though. That movie was right wing propaganda.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby canofhumdingers » Mon Jun 18, 2018 12:11 pm

I will never understand people who claim Shin Godzilla is right wing propaganda. The entrenched politicians and military FAIL. It’s the young radical upstarts, who aren’t interested in career politics, who defeat Godzilla by thinking outside the box and using cutting edge science.

How, I ask, is that right wing propoganda? And I ask that as a conservative who probably leans much further right than many here.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby tbeasley » Mon Jun 18, 2018 12:52 pm

That video is horrible.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby jellydonut25 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 3:19 pm

canofhumdingers wrote:I will never understand people who claim Shin Godzilla is right wing propaganda. The entrenched politicians and military FAIL. It’s the young radical upstarts, who aren’t interested in career politics, who defeat Godzilla by thinking outside the box and using cutting edge science.

How, I ask, is that right wing propoganda? And I ask that as a conservative who probably leans much further right than many here.

That's ignoring a lot of the subtext of the young radical upstarts being FIERCELY loyal to their country...so much so that the very Japanese blood of one of the characters causes her to make a "heroic" stand against her own country.

Shin Godzilla is all about Japan becoming stronger, more independent, getting out from the confines of its Constitution, and it's been embraced by its military (Shin Godzilla was used as an ad piece for recruitment to the JSDF) and its prime minister, whose history is at the very least, mildly troubling.

I'm not saying you CAN'T read it in a more innocent way. Obviously, you can, because so many people do, but given Anno's own disposition and beliefs, it's meant to be taken more as a piece of Japanese patriotic propaganda.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby lhb412 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 5:34 pm

^ I feel Shin Godzilla tries really hard to be patriotic but non-partisan, you know? Like (and this is a weird comparison) a National Treasure movie.

The actual Japanese military embraced the movie... but in Shin Godzilla the military are almost totally impotent and the actual heroes are basically the equivalent of Fukashima engineers. The Japanese right wing is notoriously sexist, but the breakout character of Shin Godzilla is an intelligent woman who isn't taken seriously because of her sex. The movie makes the argument that Japan should be stronger and able to take care of its own affairs, but also that it should be more transparent and argues for a more international, global perspective as opposed to a nativist one. I think an argument can be made that the film goes out of its way to be cagey about politics and a lot of the criticism comes less from what's in the movie and more from what the movie doesn't touch on. Guilt by omission?

It's kinda weird that Shusuke Kaneko escapes this criticism, because even with his oft-stated liberal bonafides Gamera 2 has the strongest, most heroic Japanese military ever depicted in a kaiju movie (with multiple visual illusions to them being modern Japanese samurai, no less!).
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby klen7 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:19 pm

i was watching Gamera the Brave for Father's Day (best Father's Day kaiju movie after SoG) and there is a news broadcast in the background where the gov't waives Article 9 in the case of kaiju attacks
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby lhb412 » Mon Jun 18, 2018 7:08 pm

klen7 wrote:i was watching Gamera the Brave for Father's Day (best Father's Day kaiju movie after SoG)


Oh, wow. It certainly is!
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby jellydonut25 » Tue Jun 19, 2018 8:15 am

lhb412 wrote:It's kinda weird that Shusuke Kaneko escapes this criticism

Because Kaneko does things like have nationalist groups get killed by the kaiju in his movies.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby lhb412 » Tue Jun 19, 2018 9:10 am

jellydonut25 wrote:
lhb412 wrote:It's kinda weird that Shusuke Kaneko escapes this criticism

Because Kaneko does things like have nationalist groups get killed by the kaiju in his movies.


That can be included in the 'even with his oft-stated liberal bonafides' preface I mentioned earlier... but isn't this example a deleted (unfilmed?) scene from GMK?
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby lhb412 » Tue Jun 19, 2018 8:11 pm

It is interesting that, despite the liberal humanist anti-nationalist bent of the key talent involved, all of the Showa films, the Godzilla entries as well as the other Honda/Tsuburaya genre films, seem to occur in an alternate universe where Article 9 does not exist.

As a kid who got pretty much all my info on 20th century Japan from kaiju movies it wasn't until seeing 1995's Gamera: Guardian of the Universe that the subject was even mentioned.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby Benjamin Haines » Thu Jun 21, 2018 9:06 pm

lhb412 wrote:^ I feel Shin Godzilla tries really hard to be patriotic but non-partisan, you know? Like (and this is a weird comparison) a National Treasure movie.

The actual Japanese military embraced the movie... but in Shin Godzilla the military are almost totally impotent and the actual heroes are basically the equivalent of Fukashima engineers. The Japanese right wing is notoriously sexist, but the breakout character of Shin Godzilla is an intelligent woman who isn't taken seriously because of her sex. The movie makes the argument that Japan should be stronger and able to take care of its own affairs, but also that it should be more transparent and argues for a more international, global perspective as opposed to a nativist one. I think an argument can be made that the film goes out of its way to be cagey about politics and a lot of the criticism comes less from what's in the movie and more from what the movie doesn't touch on. Guilt by omission?

It's kinda weird that Shusuke Kaneko escapes this criticism, because even with his oft-stated liberal bonafides Gamera 2 has the strongest, most heroic Japanese military ever depicted in a kaiju movie (with multiple visual illusions to them being modern Japanese samurai, no less!).


I think that the political subtext of Shin Godzilla is the kind that doesn't seem obvious or glaring to us non-Japanese viewers but sticks out loud and clear for Japanese people who live in that society and are immersed in its culture.

Remember when the movie 300 came out back in 2007? It was based on Frank Miller's 1998 comic series but much of the film's dialogue was newly written, including this line from Queen Gorgo: "Freedom isn't free at all." To people outside of the United States, that line and others like it could come across as innocuous and wholly appropriate for the narrative, but American viewers in 2007 could easily connect the dots and see that the story was being presented as a not-so-subtle allegory for the contemporary Bush-era "War on Terror." 300 was a flashy and stylized action movie but it was also a form of right-wing propaganda made for that specific era. American viewers not on that side of the political aisle were prone to decry the movie for that very reason, while those whose political views aligned with the message were prone to dig the film and relate its subtext to their own worldview while at the same time publicly downplaying the right-wing parable or even denying it altogether. The fact that the subtext was there was either a good thing or a bad thing depending on the viewer's personal politics, or it went over the heads of viewers who didn't pick up on it, but it was there all the same. Shin Godzilla is like that too.

The entire first act of Shin Godzilla is a thinly veiled allegory for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. That disaster happened during a time when Japan's right-wing Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was not in power. The LDP had been in control of Japanese government from 1955 to 1993 and again from 1996 until the centrist Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took power in 2009. It was the DPJ's Naoto Kan who was Prime Minister during the Fukushima disaster when it took the government hours to declare a state of emergency and even longer to order an evacuation of the area.

With its Fukushima response metaphor, Shin Godzilla isn't critiquing the Japanese government as a whole. It's criticizing the previous administration that was in power during that disaster. It represents an indictment of the DPJ.

No matter the country, political parties are all about manipulating populations to the party's whims. The right-wing LDP in Japan employs the same tactics as its US counterpart, telling the people of Japan that government under the rival party is just too bloated, too bureaucratic, too out-of-touch with the Japanese citizenry, et cetera, and that only the LDP can cut through that unthinkable amount of red tape and get things done because only the LDP understands the concerns of the common Japanese citizen or "the real Japan." Different country, same old song and dance.

Shin Godzilla dances that dance. The incompetent Prime Minister and government bureaucrats who are in charge at the beginning represent the DPJ, while Rando Yaguchi and his team of "real Japan" civilian recruits are meant to represent the LDP pulling Japan out of its mess and leading the nation into a bold new future. A number of plot points present LDP-based ideals as solutions for dealing with the threat posed by Godzilla. The LDP wants to rewrite Japan's post-WWII constitution to allow Japan to partake in international military operations with its United Nations allies. Shin Godzilla presents Article IX of the constitution as an inhibitor in Japan's efforts to respond to invasive threats. It also emphasizes that Japan's military ingenuity can emerge triumphant if the country is allowed to engage in the same kind of offensive or retaliatory operations as its international allies.

Yes, there are also key points that the movie doesn't touch on and that selective omission is also in line with LDP orthodoxy. The party is notorious for pushing a revisionist view of Japanese history which absolves Japan of any historical wrongdoing while also positing it as the perpetual victim nation. The LDP doesn't want Japanese schoolchildren to learn about historical events like the Nanking Massacre or the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Japan's history of imperial aggression is what led to its post-WWII pacifist constitution so of course the LDP prefers to deny that history. It's a conservative party that wants the Japan of the future to be a lot more like the Japan of the distant past. The current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a champion of this revisionist movement and it's an appealing outlook for a great number of Japanese people. Just as it is in America, many Japanese people are uncomfortable even acknowledging the atrocities of their nation's past, much less denouncing those atrocities out loud or daring to see any parallels with their country's present trajectory. As the thinking goes, they weren't alive back then, they didn't commit those atrocities themselves, so why should they have anything to learn from that unpleasant history? Same old song and dance.

Shin Godzilla pushes the idea of Japan building up its military might while becoming a player on the world stage, and it avoids any acknowledgement of the abominable deeds perpetrated by the Empire of Japan in decades past, but it makes a point to use historical photographs to remind viewers that Japan was the victim of two atomic bombings during WWII. It cherry-picks from the past to push a specific vision for the future, one which is very much in line with the LDP vision for Japan.

As a Western Godzilla fan, it's easy for me to not see the movie in those terms and just enjoy watching it for the high-quality creature feature that it is, but that subtext is still totally there and most Japanese viewers likely recognized it immediately.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby lhb412 » Thu Jun 21, 2018 11:34 pm

^ You've articulated the argument far better than any other version I've heard or read... but I still have qualms. If the film was intended to have this clear cut, 1 to 1 nationalist message then I think it fails in certain respects. Perhaps if Anno intended the movie to carry this message his desire to also make it a cracking monster movie with all the required twists and turns sabotaged those intentions somewhat?

If the film wants to valorize the military and encourage military expansion why isn't military force capable of anything meaningful? The heroes are more like Joe Brody in Godzilla '14: bomb disposal instead of bomb throwing. There's also the heroism and out-of-nowhere wisdom of the elderly replacement prime minister, which puzzles me more than anything else in the film. The old German lady criticizing her young associates for, essentially, nationalist reservations and Rando responding in kind by sharing all the supposedly precious Godzilla information with the world. The entire character of Ogashira, who seems to exist only as a fairly simple condemnation of sexism and is made memorable by the actress. If Anno wants to end the movie with this statement about a new stronger Japan why does he pull the rug out at the end? The surprise last shot of the film gives us the impression that everything Yaguchi and the rest accomplished is all for naught and the world is still screwed. It reminds me of the end of one of John Carpenter's 'apocalypse' movies, or even the end of Friday the 13th with Jason springing from the lake. The movie ends giving you the impression that there's not going to be a Japan pretty soon, much less a new, stronger Japan. There isn't going to be an anywhere very soon.

I get the impression that Hideaki Anno... doesn't really care. I mean, he's more preoccupied with his pet themes of problem solving and self determination than he is with any moral stance or belief and is kind of clueless, and maybe too emotionally stunted to actually form a coherent political thought beyond that of a middle schooler. If he did turn out a cogent piece of nationalist propaganda he must've done so by accident, because I don't think it within his capabilities to do so intentionally.

... jeez, I got kinda mean about Anno there. I do like the film!
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby jellydonut25 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 8:53 am

lhb412 wrote:If the film wants to valorize the military and encourage military expansion why isn't military force capable of anything meaningful?
Because it's a GODZILLA movie. The military is still portrayed as benevolent. Wishing to HELP. Objectively GOOD. And ultimately, it's a military effort that stops Godzilla.


lhb412 wrote: There's also the heroism and out-of-nowhere wisdom of the elderly replacement prime minister, which puzzles me more than anything else in the film.
It's entirely possible I'm missing something but...heroism? wisdom? He says "Soggy noodles" and it's Yaguchi who is the 'hero.' The prime minister is a weak, pliable tool. I have only seen the movie once though...but that's my recollection.

lhb412 wrote:The old German lady criticizing her young associates for, essentially, nationalist reservations and Rando responding in kind by sharing all the supposedly precious Godzilla information with the world.

There's obviously a very different way to read this. Namely: it's good for Japan, because it's self-preservation, and therefore the right thing to do. It's not an altruistic move.

lhb412 wrote:The entire character of Ogashira, who seems to exist only as a fairly simple condemnation of sexism and is made memorable by the actress.
Who? Seriously. WHO? The only female character in the movie I remember is Ann Patterson...is this the computer nerd chick? If so, I don't AT ALL understand this fascination people have with this character...she says "Your shirt stinks," and that's it. I feel like WAY too much is read into a character who feeds into a lot of typical Japanese ideas of what women could/should be: she's sure smart, but she's definitely more than willing to sit back and take a secondary role and let the men get credit for her work. She's meek and quiet. The "perfect" Japanese woman.

lhb412 wrote: If Anno wants to end the movie with this statement about a new stronger Japan why does he pull the rug out at the end? The surprise last shot of the film gives us the impression that everything Yaguchi and the rest accomplished is all for naught and the world is still screwed. It reminds me of the end of one of John Carpenter's 'apocalypse' movies, or even the end of Friday the 13th with Jason springing from the lake. The movie ends giving you the impression that there's not going to be a Japan pretty soon, much less a new, stronger Japan. There isn't going to be an anywhere very soon.
Hm. I just thought it was a stinger...very much like the end of F13 in that regard. It's meant to give you a final scare, not make sense.


lhb412 wrote:I get the impression that Hideaki Anno... doesn't really care. I mean, he's more preoccupied with his pet themes of problem solving and self determination than he is with any moral stance or belief and is kind of clueless, and maybe too emotionally stunted to actually form a coherent political thought beyond that of a middle schooler. If he did turn out a cogent piece of nationalist propaganda he must've done so by accident, because I don't think it within his capabilities to do so intentionally.
While it DEFINITELY might be true that he stumbles, to suggest that Anno is not concerned with moral or political stances is to ignore who he is: he's a nationalist himself, and he also openly admits things like (paraphrasing) *I draw/write sexpots female characters because they're more fun than old ladies* and *Male gratification is a fundamental part of anime* and has expressed a great deal of sadness that he believes certain industries (namely and specifically animation) in Japan are on the decline and wishes they would swing back up.

He also has been pretty open in saying the Shin Godzilla filming process was far too quick for him, hectic, and somewhat of a miserable experience. I get the feeling he sees a lot of the shortcomings of the movie, but was given almost no opportunity to fix any of them due to the rushed production and limited budget. He has even said he wouldn't do another one, and I think that's at least partially because of the rough experience he had making Shin....yeah, the movie was given more PRE-production time than any Godzilla movie in recent memory...but the production schedule itself was the typical rushed affair that Toho has sadly become known for.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby lhb412 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 9:38 am

lhb412 wrote:If the film wants to valorize the military and encourage military expansion why isn't military force capable of anything meaningful?
Because it's a GODZILLA movie. The military is still portrayed as benevolent. Wishing to HELP. Objectively GOOD. And ultimately, it's a military effort that stops Godzilla.


Hasn't this been intrinsic to every Godzilla movie from '84 on? I'd argue that's when the big break with Honda's pacifism occurred, and has been largely the same since in this regard.

lhb412 wrote: There's also the heroism and out-of-nowhere wisdom of the elderly replacement prime minister, which puzzles me more than anything else in the film.
It's entirely possible I'm missing something but...heroism? wisdom? He says "Soggy noodles" and it's Yaguchi who is the 'hero.' The prime minister is a weak, pliable tool. I have only seen the movie once though...but that's my recollection.


He stops the bomb countdown by essentially begging (was it France?) and by the end of the movie we're told that he is quickly setting up elections to restore democratic process because he us PM by happenstance.

lhb412 wrote:The old German lady criticizing her young associates for, essentially, nationalist reservations and Rando responding in kind by sharing all the supposedly precious Godzilla information with the world.

There's obviously a very different way to read this. Namely: it's good for Japan, because it's self-preservation, and therefore the right thing to do. It's not an altruistic move.

You could say that about any movie where people are in trouble and they receive help. Whether the people who make the movie do or don't care with the moral that is the way the moral is being presented on the screen by the characters.

lhb412 wrote:The entire character of Ogashira, who seems to exist only as a fairly simple condemnation of sexism and is made memorable by the actress.
Who? Seriously. WHO? The only female character in the movie I remember is Ann Patterson...is this the computer nerd chick? If so, I don't AT ALL understand this fascination people have with this character...she says "Your shirt stinks," and that's it. I feel like WAY too much is read into a character who feeds into a lot of typical Japanese ideas of what women could/should be: she's sure smart, but she's definitely more than willing to sit back and take a secondary role and let the men get credit for her work. She's meek and quiet. The "perfect" Japanese woman.


She's constantly right but being told she's wrong. Yaguchi constantly listens to her and believes her while everyone around them 'pooh-poohs' her ideas until they are always proven correct. This is most clearly demonstrated in a scene where a character 'discovers' something and brings it Yaguchi only for him to point out that it just proves Ogashira right. You get the sense that if not for Yaguchi making a space for her others would simply steal her ideas from her.

and has expressed a great deal of sadness that he believes certain industries (namely and specifically animation) in Japan are on the decline and wishes they would swing back up.


That's not exactly and uncommon belief among all animators. I feel like every interview with a Japanese animator I've read or watched says something similar... for like, decades now (every animator seems to be in a perpetual belief the industry is about to collapse and they need to get back to the glory days... naturally, agreeing on what the glory days were is another matter).


Listen, I'm not saying that the movie doesn't contain nationalistic themes. I am saying that the film is far more imperfect and inconsistant as a vehicle for those themes than some give it credit for.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby jellydonut25 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:00 am

lhb412 wrote:Listen, I'm not saying that the movie doesn't contain nationalistic themes. I am saying that the film is far more imperfect and inconsistant as a vehicle for those themes than some give it credit for.

I think Anno himself would admit that. He's said the movie has a lot of flaws, and it was due to the insanely rushed production schedule and hectic nature of the shoot. There was no time for refinement or proper editing. The writing process was definitely given some time, but everything else was thrown together in a mad dash.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby TerranigmaFreak » Fri Jun 22, 2018 6:08 pm

Everything about the movie, even the soundtrack feels thrown together at the last minute. It is such a clusterf--- of incoherent BS.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby MouthForWar » Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:06 pm

lhb412 wrote:
jellydonut25 wrote:
lhb412 wrote:It's kinda weird that Shusuke Kaneko escapes this criticism

Because Kaneko does things like have nationalist groups get killed by the kaiju in his movies.


That can be included in the 'even with his oft-stated liberal bonafides' preface I mentioned earlier... but isn't this example a deleted (unfilmed?) scene from GMK?


No. The biker gang that Baragon takes out at the beginning is a well known Japanese nationalist group.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby lhb412 » Fri Jun 22, 2018 10:42 pm

^ Didn't know that!
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby klen7 » Sat Jun 23, 2018 8:31 pm

MouthForWar wrote:
jellydonut25 wrote:Because Kaneko does things like have nationalist groups get killed by the kaiju in his movies.



No. The biker gang that Baragon takes out at the beginning is a well known Japanese nationalist group.

Any source for this? What is the name of the biker gang? Or which gang are they modeled after?
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby klen7 » Mon Jun 25, 2018 1:53 pm

I can't find anything to back up the biker gang being either well known or nationalist. It appears to be a random bosozoku gang, which can be anywhere in the counter culture spectrum. Typically the nationalistic groups wear tokko fuku style uniforms. There is one guy that passes the truck on the left wearing a long open toko fuku jacket, but otherwise, there are no rising suns, no one seems to have the pants tucked into the boots, or the other halmarks of the tokko tai style that these bosozoku have appropriated. For the most part the gang seems styled after a delinquent or yakuza style group, so they are just a bunch of punks, not all that different from the gangs in Akira. Maybe someone that can read Japanese with a bluray copy can have better luck deciphering their flags (the scene is dark and in motion) - this should be relatively easy to prove or disprove.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby lhb412 » Tue Jun 26, 2018 2:34 am

^ You actually went and looked up the features commonly associated with nativest Japanese biker gangs?

That's old school internet nerdery. Very nice.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby MouthForWar » Fri Jun 29, 2018 8:17 pm

My source for the biker gang stuff is Norman England, who was on the GMK set every day, lives in Japan and still hangs out Kaneko on a regular basis. I did a whole GMK commentary with him for my podcast where we discuss it more in depth. Since he's so close to the source (literally and figuratively) and has never steered me wrong, I have no reason to doubt him.
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Re: The Imperial Ambitions of Godzilla

Postby klen7 » Sat Jun 30, 2018 9:23 am

^ that is why i asked "What is the name of the biker gang? Or which gang are they modeled after?" because the strong assertion that the biker gang is a well known Japanese nationalist group doesn't appear to be backed up by what is in the final version of the film.

If someone were to say James Cameron had an anti-nazi message because the terminator killed some punks, i'd ask for more info because they don't have any of the hallmarks of neo-nazi punks.
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