I'm watching this right now. This is one of my favorite Godzilla films, and it's one of the best movies to put on in the middle of the night as background atmosphere in the room, especially with this delectably nostalgic English dub. I remember the first time I watched this at nine years old, one afternoon after returning from the local swimming pool with the family and putting the rented VHS tape on in the living room. What an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience that was, seeing the heroic Godzilla and Anguirus go through riveting dangers to thwart the evil monsters. Pure awesome.
The cast of characters here are are downright fun to watch. Even as a kid, the first 45 minutes or so that focus largely on the people before the attack on Tokyo even begins didn't bore me for a minute, and that wouldn't have been the case if the characters weren't so likable and their story so interesting. We've got a goofy cartoonist, his ass-kicking girlfriend/sister/whatever, a corncob-toting hippie, his daring friend, and her you-know-he's-cool-because-he-smokes brother as the heroes, and a couple of methodical, orange jumpsuit-clad, rather polite aliens as the villains. The people here are just as colorful and entertaining as the monsters, and that makes the whole movie fun to watch from beginning to end.
I've always loved how when it cuts from the monster battle to Machiko and Shosaku preparing the escape balloon, the stock Ifukube music continues to play faintly in the background along with the monster roars, as though the music is actually part of the monster battle off in the distance. Genius.
Fukuda had a penchant for depicting the monsters as characters in a dramatic fashion. Godzilla is getting blasted by the tower's rays and Gigan blocks Anguirus from helping him. The way Fukuda set up the shots characterizes the monsters and tells the story of the scene without a single word or bit of dialogue. Godzilla is on the ground getting roasted, crying out in pain. Anguirus looks on helplessly, seeing Godzilla in danger, but Gigan and his spinning buzzsaw are standing between him and his friend. Finally Anguirus can't stand watching anymore and just charges forward, getting his face sliced open quite nastily as a result. Anguirus became one of my favorite monsters as soon as I first saw this movie and that hasn't changed. He's Godzilla's loyal sidekick, you've just gotta love him!
This is about the coolest Godzilla has ever been in any movie. Seeing him as an unstoppable, unbeatable force in other films is cool and all, but the mortal, persevering Godzilla in this flick is so much more memorable. Here he's a compelling hero in the vein of Indiana Jones and John McClane. He heads voluntarily into battle, taunts the bad guys, shows how tough he is, gets his ass kicked something fierce but ultimately comes back and prevails thanks to his own strength and wits. He's a hero that it just feels right to root for. Making him indestructible and uber-powerful prevents the battles in some of the other films from achieving the same sense of peril and payoff that Godzilla vs. Gigan pulls off marvelously. Watching Godzilla come close to losing makes it all the more satisfying to see him send the bad guys running and roar heroically in the sunrise. Godzilla really earns his status as the king of the monsters here.