Meeting Masaaki Tezuka, director of Godzilla x Megaguirus (2000), Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (2002), and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003). My thanks to screenwriter Wataru Mimura to introducing us via the magic of e-mail prior to the event.
How did you celebrate Godzilla's birthday?
On November 3, 2011, an event was held at the Shinepatosu theater in Ginza, Tokyo, celebrating not only Godzilla's 57th birthday, but also the films of arguably The Big G's greatest foe: Mechagodzilla.
The event was built around the screening of three Mechagodzilla films, all of which had (basically) the same title. The 1974, 1993, and 2002 versions of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla were shown on the theater's big screen, making these the first (but hopefully not last) G-films I've seen theatrically in Japan.
Fans line up in anticipation of the event.
One of the coolest aspects of the event was a free souvenir each attendee received just for showing up. In this case, it was a toy replica of Professor Miyajima's "powerful pipe" from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). How long will this toy stay in its plastic? Forget "collectibility"; I want to play with it!
Finally, a toy I actually want! How about fewer vinyl figures and more stuff like this?
As great as it was to see Godzilla movies on the silver screen, celebrity guests are always the highlight of any such event for me. The first guest was Reiko Tajima, who played G vs. MG's heroine in the 1974 version.
Unfortunately, either she or her management stipulated that no photographs could be taken, which was a bit of a disappointment. Still, she gave out (pre-signed) autographs to attendees, and I had the pleasure of speaking with her in English. (She seems to speak it pretty well, but our conversation was rather brief.)
After Mechagodzilla '74 was screened, a surprise guest entered the room...
Straight from the Third Planet of the Black Hole, Kuronuma (and Mugar!) conquers Ginza with his alien technology!
The great Goro Mutsumi, who played the alien leader in both Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla, gave an interview onstage about his career. The interview touched on such subjects as The War in Space and Espy, making me really regret not understanding Japanese!
Although I didn't have a chance to meet him, something did happen that (almost) makes up for that. When Mr. Mutsumi took the stage, he shouted to the audience, "Alpha!" I was the first to yell back, "Centaurus!" (Mr. Mutsumi did the same thing at the end of his interview.) It doesn't get any cooler than that!
In case you still aren't satisfied with the amount of special guests on hand, here's SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano, along with G-series directors Takao Okawara and Masaaki Tezuka.
The parade of Godzilla celebrities continued with the arrival of Teruyoshi Nakano (SFX director from 1971-1984), Takao Okawara (director of Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla '93, Godzilla vs. Destroyah, and Godzilla 2000), and Masaaki Tezuka (Millennium series G-director). These three gentlemen discussed their respective Mechagodzilla movies to the enjoyment of those present.
But wait! There's more!
Shinji Nishikawa, Akihiko Iguchi, Teruyoshi Nakano, Takao Okawara, Masaaki Tezuka, Wataru Mimura, and Wataru Fukuda pose for audience photos.
Even more guests took the stage and signed autographs. Kiryu designer Shinji Nishikawa, Mechagodzilla '74's designer Akihiko Iguchi, MG '93 and '02 screenwriter Wataru Mimura, and MG '93 suit actor Wataru Fukuda joined the impressive roster of talent on hand and were happy to meet their fans.
Wataru Mimura, Shinji Nishikawa, and Akihiko Iguchi wait for the next batch of fans to come by.
More talk-show interviews followed, including an impressive look at the designs of '70s-era Toho kaiju, including Mechagodzilla, King Seesar, Megalon, and others!
How they made Mechagodzilla: The secrets were revealed by designer Akihiko Iguchi!
All in all, it was a very impressive event. The only downside was that the guests didn't mingle with the audience much at all (and, in some cases, not at all), which was disappointing. The autograph lines were cramped and rushed, and even then it was impossible to pose for photos with guests. Still, it was a great event, and, considering all the autographs and books I came home with, I'm very glad I went.
Making a new friend at Hibiya's Godzilla statue.
Following the event, I paid a visit to the nearby Godzilla statue in Hibiya. Two female G-fans from the MG event arrived shortly after I did. One of them spoke English fairly well, and we exchanged phone numbers. We can say we met at the Godzilla statue!
Oh, and if you'd like to see video of the event, you're in luck! I captured some of the highlights on my video camera, and they are linked below.