Gamera (ガメラ) is a giant, tusked, flying terrapin from a popular series of daikaiju eiga produced by Daiei Motion Picture Company in Japan. Created in 1965 to rival the success of Toho Studios' Godzilla during the "Kaiju Boom" of the mid-to-late 1960s, Gamera has gained fame and notoriety as a Japanese icon in his own right. Gamera has also gained popularity in the United States thanks to several of his movies being featured on the cult television program Mystery Science Theater 3000.Origins
In the Shōwa era films, Gamera was an ancient species of gigantic tortoise who protected and befriended children (as children represent mankind's future). In the Heisei era films, Gamera was a guardian of the Earth created by Atlantis to combat Gyaos, which Atlantis had created as well.
* In the Showa series, Gamera fed and fueled on fire and atomic energy. He could breathe intensely hot streams of flames from his mouth when caught in a more serious situation. The Heisei version, on the other hand, could blast off mighty plasma fireballs from his mouth, usually very quickly, and with varying accuracy. They were highly explosive. The Heisei version could also absorb a great deal of "mana", or the living essence and energy of life on earth, and release an extremely powerful stream of pure plasma and fire from an opened, organic "cannon" in his chest. In the final film of the Heisei series, Gamera demonstrated that he could temporarily gain a spectral plasma fist if he lost his hand and the stump was struck by fire.
* Gamera pulls his head and limbs into his shell, and from inside, atomic jet propulsion fires from the holes where the limbs used to be, and he flies, spinning like a top. In addition to this method of flight, Gamera also has the ability to fly forward like a hypersonic jet fighter. In this 'mode', his head and arms remain out of his shell (although the arms expand to become wing like)and his rear legs retract, allowing for the atomic exhaust release. This acts as propulsion.
Gamera made his first appearance in 1965's Daikaijû Gamera, also the only Gamera film to be in black-and-white. Also the last Giant monster movie to be in black and white. The subsequent films, usually directed by Noriaki Yuasa and written by Nisan Takahashi, quickly became a big hit with children. It also makes it a big hit by watching Gamera fight monsters Barugon, Gyaos, Viras, Guiron, Jiger, and Zigra. Gross mismanagement of Daiei, however, put the company in bankruptcy, and the Gamera films were forced to cease production after six sequels. After Daiei was purchased by Tokuma Shoten in 1974, the new management wanted to do a new Gamera film in 1980, so Gamera: Super Monster was produced. While the majority of the film used stock footage (with limited new scenes of Gamera flying), it was considered a nice "recap" of Gamera's history. However, Yuasa and Takahashi felt that they had done all they could with the monster, so they respectfully killed off Gamera at the end of the film.
Through the years, on both sides of the Pacific, fans of Gamera or Godzilla have debated, sometimes bitterly, which monster is better. The latter was considered better, in that Godzilla was considered to have "higher standards" than Gamera, who was just a monster for kids. The giant turtle thus often became the object of ridicule, especially on the American TV series Mystery Science Theater 3000, which lampoons B-movies.
However, 6 years after the beginning of the Heisei era in Japan (1989), Gamera began to rise up to the standards set by Godzilla.
Following the revival of the Godzilla series (1984–1995), Daiei drew plans to resurrect its own star kaiju. In 1994 Daiei asked director Shusuke Kaneko, a lifelong kaiju fan, to helm of a planned new Gamera movie. Although not a Gamera fan (Kaneko preferred Godzilla, and had asked Toho for the chance to direct a Godzilla film in 1992, though he would not have this opportunity until 2001), Kaneko tried to stay true to the spirit of the classic films while taking a fresh, edgy approach to appeal to his contemporary audience. The result was Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995); while not the huge box-office success anticipated, it met critical acclaim on both sides of the Pacific, outperforming the Godzilla films of the same period at a fraction of their budgets. Kaneko directed two sequels, culminating in a "Gamera Trilogy", with each film more successful than the previous. The trilogy transformed Gamera from the "friend to all children" of the Shōwa films to a vicious anti-hero on par with Godzilla, if not more so, as many Godzilla fans realized Gamera's potential. However, Showa Gamera writer, Nisan Takahashi, felt that the Heisei Gamera was too dark toned. The series itself was given acclaim, which included praise from Roger Ebert who gave the "thumbs up."
Gamera: The Brave (March 2006) returns Gamera to his Shōwa-era roots, but with a modern twist. Hopefully, the theme of a new Gamera (dubbed "Gamera Jr." by fans) will lead to a new series of films. Kadokawa Pictures (current owners of Gamera) and Cartoon Network have teamed up to make a Gamera animated series that will premiere in 2007.
* Height: 60 meters/200 feet/2400 inches
* Weight: 80 metric tons/90 tons/180,000 lb.
* Flying speed: Mach 3
* Swimming speed: 180 knots/330 km/h/210 mph
* Height: 80 meters/260 feet/3100 inches
* Weight: 120 metric tons/130 tons/260,000 lb.
* Flying speed: Mach 3.5
* Swimming speed: 150 knots/280 km/h/170 mph
* Height: 30 meters/100 feet/1200 inches
* Weight: N/A
* Flying speed: N/A
* Swimming speed: N/A
* Daikaijû Gamera (1965)
* Gamera vs. Barugon (1966)
* Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967)
* Gamera vs. Viras (1968)
* Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)
* Gamera vs. Jiger (1970)
* Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)
* Gamera: Super Monster (1980)
* Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
* Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996)
* Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys (1999)
* Gamera 4: Truth (fan film) (2003)
* Gamera: The Brave (2006)