The Return Of The Guardian Of The Universe Is Long Overdue
As we enter what Kaiju fans are calling the Reiwa era, we have been getting quite a lot of Kaiju media. From Legendary’s Monsterverse to the upcoming Godzilla: Singular Point anime series, to more indie fare like Howl From Beyond the Fog, we have been getting more kaiju media than ever before. However, one big screen monster that has been noticeably absent is the flying turtle himself: Gamera! Aside from a 50th-anniversary concept trailer shown at New York Comic-Con in 2015, any news or rumors of a new Gamera project has been dead silent.
This is despite the fact that we continue to get various merchandise of Gamera, including toys and the lavish Arrow Video boxset, which was sold out mere days after its release earlier in the year. So one must wonder; if they want to make money off the colossal terrapin’s shell, why not make a new movie? After all, one of the highest-grossing kaiju films in Japan was 2016’s Shin Godzilla, which was also a critical darling, winning multiple awards including best picture at the 40th Japan Academy Prize (the equivalent of the Academy Awards in Japan). Usually, such a high profile success means any film studio worth their salt would hop on! But sadly that isn’t the case of Gamera, or rather his current rights holder, Kadokawa.
An Empty Shell
Looking over Gamera’s 55 years as a franchise, the character is definitely the cinematic rival to Godzilla. There has at least been one Gamera film to be released in the past few eras of Godzilla with eight in the Showa era, the acclaimed Heisei era trilogy, and 2006’s Gamera The Brave in the Millenium era. So as we enter what is now called the Reiwa era that was started by 2016’s Shin Godzilla, the fact we have yet to get anything major for Gamera is quite disheartening. Though it’s understandable for Gamera to be on hiatus as Gamera The Brave was seen as a box office dud to Kadokawa as it grossed only over 260 million yen (or 2.5 million USD) and during the mid-2000s the kaiju genre was not seen as desirable with films such as 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars also being a box office failure.
Lately though, the 2010s and as we enter a new decade, we have been getting a new wave of kaiju media from around the world! From mainstays of the genre like Godzilla, King Kong, and Ultraman to new IPs such as Pacific Rim, the lack of Gamera is both disheartening and frustrating. Though it has not been publically confirmed, many bigger voices within the kaiju community have said from second-hand sources that the current rights holder, Kadokawa, has little to no interest in making a modern Gamera film. This is especially frustrating as, despite this disinterest, we still get new merchandise of the character and Kadokawa even renewed the license in early 2020. So it’s clear Kadokawa sees Gamera as profitable enough to make merchandise, but not valuable to make films with, despite the fact that fans have been clamoring for new films since Godzilla’s return with Gareth Edward‘s 2014 American reboot and Shin Godzilla‘s massive release in Japan. One would think Kadokawa would’ve greenlit a Gamera reboot by now, especially for the character’s 65th anniversary. So while we’ve got some cool Gamera media, such as the Arrow Video box set and the DNA of Tokusatsu’s Gamera themed exhibit during late 2019 and early 2020, that feeling of apathy Kadokawa has for Gamera can be felt.
The Last Hope
So the question remains: why should Gamera return? Maybe it’s merely a dead franchise and maybe it isn’t relevant anymore. To counter that statement, the answer may shock you: wonder. It’s no secret many kaiju fans started as fans when they were children and while Godzilla remains the top zeitgeist for the kaiju genre as a whole, Gamera seems to always have a positive aura around it. From the zany campiness of the Showa era to the powerful themes of hope of the Heisei trilogy ,to the earnest wholesomeness of Gamera The Brave, Gamera has this childlike wonder that helps it stand apart from Godzilla and go against the assumption of the franchise being a cash-in to Toho’s kaiju fair.
In fact, genre media focusing on children has been making big waves and for a franchise that is known to heavily feature children, Gamera has one of the best opportunities to return. Look at franchises like Stranger Things and Stephen King‘s It. Audiences love the idea of kids in a monster focused setting, so give Gamera that Speilberg/Amblin Films treatment would print easy money.
And on a less cynical end, Gamera represent something specials for many kaiju fans. Gamera helped to show there were more kaiju films than just Godzilla. With his films we laughed at the silliness, awed at the amazing effects, and even saw some heartwarming moments. Gamera is almost a comfort series for the Kaiju and Tokusatsu genre and that is something that transcends profits.
At the end of the day, Gamera is one of the major pillars of the kaiju genre and despite what many are calling the Reiwa era, the “Kaiju Renaissance”; it feels incomplete without the “Friend of all Children”. With the massive success of Arrow’s Gamera box set and Kadokawa making more and more merch of the flying turtle, there may still be hope. After all, to quote the final line of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe: “He’ll come! Gamera will come again!”