Gamera: Guardian of the Universe
|Gamera: Guardian of the Universe|
Official Japanese poster
|Directed by||Shusuke Kaneko|
|Produced by||Hiroyuki Kato
|Written by||Kazunori Itō|
|Music by||Kow Otani|
|Editing by||Shizuo Arakawa|
|Distributed by||Toho (Japan)
ADV Films (USA)
|Running time||100 min.|
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (ガメラ 大怪獣空中決戦 Gamera: Daikaijū Kuchu Kessen , Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Battle), is a 1995 Science fiction Kaiju film directed by Shusuke Kaneko and written by Kazunori Itō. It is a reboot of the Gamera film franchise, taking the character and franchise in a much more serious and darker direction as opposed to the campy tone of the original films. Rather than aiming for a children audience, the film was aimed to target a more mature audience. It was a co-production of Hakuhodo, Daiei Film and Nippon Television, and was the first Gamera film not to be released by Daiei Film.
The film follows Asagi Kusanagi and her father and colleges, Yoshinari Yonemori and Mayumi Nagamine as pollution environments reawaken two ancient giant monsters, the giant turtle Gamera and the carnivorous giant bat/bird Gyaos to do battle for the salvation of the human race.
The film was released in Japan on March 11, 1995 and was an immediate critical and financial success, earning ¥520,000,000 ($6,000,000 USD) at the box office. It has been widely acclaimed by fans and critics alike and has been regarded as a classic of the Kaiju genre. The film became popular enough to spawn two more sequels, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion and Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys. It is the ninth entry in the Gamera film series and first in Shusuke Kaneko's Gamera trilogy.
The year is 1995, the Kairyu-Maru, a ship carrying plutonium, collides with a floating atoll off the eastern coast of the Philippines. Similar events start occurring throughout the area and a team of scientists lead by Naoya Kusanagi (Akira Onodera) are called to investigate the atoll as it approaches Japan.
Meanwhile, Ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine (Shinobu Nakayama) is called to the Goto Archipelago to investigate a mysterious village attack claimed to have been caused by a "giant bird". Further descent into the forest leads the investigation crew to encounter the giant bird. After chasing it away from the island, Nagamine discovers two more giant birds.
Meanwhile, the atoll investigation team uncover several stone amulets and a stone slab at the center of the anomalous formation. The strange writing engraved on the slab reveals the names of Gamera, the Guardian of the Universe, and Gyaos, the Shadow of Evil. The atoll suddenly starts to quake and the slab is destroyed. As the scientists are thrown into the water, Marine Officer Yoshinari Yonemori (Tsuyoshi Ihara) encounters the eye and tusk of a giant turtle.
Back in Japan, Nagamaine agrees to aid the government to capture the giant birds. The three creatures are lured away from the Goto Archipelago to the Fukuoka Dome baseball stadium. Prior to commencing the operation, Yonemori arrives of the dome to warn the military of a 60 meter creature approaching Fukuoka. However, his claims are ignored and the operation commences. The birds land upon seeing large chunks of meat laid down for them inside the stadium and are soon attacked with tranquilizers. All except for one which makes its escape. Upon reaching the harbor, the bird is attacked and killed by the giant turtle Yonemori encountered and explained. The giant turtle rampages its way across the city to reach the dome, attempting to destroy the birds. The birds manage to wake up and escape before the turtle reaches them. In a moment of awe, the turtle too leaves by igniting its booster jets and flies away.
At the Kusanagi house, he reveals to Yonemori and his daughter Asagi (Ayako Fujitani) that the slab tells the names of the creatures. The giant turtle is Gamera and the birds are Gyaos. Yonemori then gives Asagi one of the discovered amulets as a gift and a bond between her and Gamera is soon binded. Kusanagi shares the deciphered slab information with the Japanese military, who have targeted Gamera as the enemy due to its immense size.
However, Kusanagi, Yonemori, and Nagamine are called to the Kiso Mountain Range for a Gyaos attack on the village. As Yonemori and Nagamine attempt to rescue a child, Gamera arrives in time to save them and stop the Gyaos. Despite killing another one, the last Gyaos escapes.
Asagi discovers that her unwilling bond with Gamera forces her to share the same pain Gamera suffers. She later heads to Mount Fuji after hearing on the radio of a military counter attack against Gamera occurring the following evening. The counter attack on Gamera commences with the creature not fighting back. As soon as Asagi arrives to witness the attack, the final Gyaos arrives to combat Gamera. Gyaos manages to mortally wound the giant turtle and Asagi in the process, forcing Gamera to retreat back to the ocean. Kusanagi visits his daughter at the hospital where Asagi falls into a long deep sleep as Gamera too slumbers to regain his energy.
Nagamine and Yonemori put the pieces together by uncovering that ten thousand years ago, an advanced civilization created the Gyaos to eliminate rampant pollution. However, the Gyaos grew stronger, started breeding and began feasting on humans. For protection, Gamera was created to fend off the attacks. The onslaught of the Gyaos was eventually halted, and they were forced into hibernation. Despite the best efforts of its people, the advanced civilization was ruined. So, the scientists preserved the last remaining Gamera and bequeathed him to the next civilization, should the Gyaos ever return. More light is shined on the matter when a friend of Nagamine reveals to her and Yonemori that the Gyaos species only possess one chromosome. Apparently, the Gyaos are both male & female and have the ability to reproduce on their own. This startling new revelation is soon realized when the final Gyaos evolves into a Super Gyaos and attacks Tokyo.
This event forces the Japanese Government to revert their target from Gamera to Gyaos. In an attempt to kill Gyaos in broad daylight, the military launch heat seeking missiles at Gyaos who miraculously dodges them and gets them to destroy the midsection of Tokyo Tower. Gyaos then forms a nest at the top of the Tower where it slumbers until its next attack.
Because of several failed attempts to destroy Gyaos, citizens flee the city in an act of fear. Leaving Tokyo nearly deserted. Nagamine and Yonemori discover the final piece of the puzzle, the amulet Asagi carries. After trying to explain to Kusanagi that the amulet somehow links Asagi and Gamera together and share a life force, Kusanagi dismisses it as ridiculous claims until he witnesses it himself.
The following morning, Gamera returns to destroy Gyaos once and for all. The battle forces Asagi, Kusanagi, Nagamine, and Yonemori to pursue in a helicopter to witness the air decisive battle. Initially, Gyaos emerges victorious after Gamera failed to crash into an oil refinery with Gyaos. However, Asagi uses what's left of her energy to resurrect Gamera. Both monsters charge their energy to finish each other off but Gamera takes the upper hand and blasts Gyaos to pieces.
As Gamera roars in victory, he turns to look upon Asagi's face for the first time and, in gratitude, releases her of their bond together and returns to the sea. Despite the Gyaos being destroyed, Nagamine believes more Gyaos may appear if the environment continues to strive the way it does. But Asagi assures them that Gamera will return if the human race ever needs him again.
- Tsuyoshi Ihara as Yoshinari Yonemori
- Akira Onodera as Naoya Kusanagi
- Shinobu Nakayama as Mayumi Nagamine - A gifted scientist who is also a friend of Asagi's.
- Ayako Fujitani as Asagi Kusanagi - A young girl who forms a spiritual bond with Gamera after she received an ancient pendant found on Gamera's hide by her father.
- Yukijiro Hotaru as Inspector Osako
- Hatsunori Hasegawa as Colonel Satake
- Hirotaro Honda as Mr. Saito, EPA
- Naoki Manabe, Jun Suzuki as Gamera - The films titular kaiju, Gamera is a giant fireball breathing turtle that was created by an advanced civilization to exterminate the invading Gyaos.
- Yuhmi Kaneyama as Gyaos - Three man-eating bird/bat-like villain creatures of the movie and the arch-enemies of Gamera.
- 1996 - Nominated Award of the Japanese Academy Best Supporting Actress - Shinobu Nakayama
- 1996 - Won Blue Ribbon Award Best Director - Shusuke Kaneko, Best Supporting Actress - Shinobu Nakayama
- 1996 - Won Festival Prize Best Director - Shusuke Kaneko, Best Screenplay - Kazunori Itô, Best Supporting Actress - Shinobu Nakayama, Best Technical - Shinji Higuchi (for his special effects)
Critical reaction 
The film has been highly praised by fans and critics alike. It has been regarded for its darker tones, ground-breaking special effects, and successful reinvention of the franchise and character. The film has been noted to be far more darker and edgier than the original series, which was often criticized for being too campy.
Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, saying: "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe is precisely the kind of movie that I enjoy, despite all rational reasoning. How, you may ask, can I possibly prefer this Japanese monster film about a jet-powered turtle to a megabudget solemnity like Air Force One? It has laughable acting, a ludicrous plot, second-rate special effects and dialogue such as, 'Someday, I'll show you around monster-free Tokyo!' The answer, I think, is that Gamera is more fun."
Peter H. Gilmore of MonsterZero.us said, "All in all, this is a vibrant and energetic film. The monster battles are full of physical grappling as well as energy weapon exchanges, and the excellent suitmation is well augmented by judiciously used CGI." Popcorn Pictures said, "This is just a great, fun kaiju film. ... Gamera finally has a film to rival Godzilla (but he's still second best to the Big G, though) and rid the infamous legacy that has dogged him throughout his motion picture life."
Blu-ray and DVD releases 
Mill Creek Entertainment
- Released: October 12, 2010
- Note: Comes bundled with Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion on the same Blu-ray Disc.
- Released: March 18, 2003
- Note: Extra features: Interview with special effects director Shinji Higuchi, Press Conference Footage, Behind the Scenes, Footage from Yabari International Fantastic Adventure Film Festival, Opening Night Footage, Trailers.
- Review Roger Ebert, August 29, 1997
- Review Peter H. Gilmore, Monster Zero, June 10, 2002
- Review Popcorn Pictures
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe at Rotten Tomatoes
- "ガメラ 大怪獣空中決戦 (Gamera: Daikaijū Kuchu Kessen)" (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe at the Internet Movie Database