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Daiei's Gamera series
Gamera original.jpg

Gamera as featured in Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965)
First appearance Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965)
Last appearance Gamera the Brave (2006)
Created by Yonejiro Saito
Portrayed by: Shōwa series
Teruo Aragaki
Umenosuke Izumi
Heisei series
Naoaki Manabe
Jun Suzuki
Akira Ohashi
Hirofumi Fukuzawa
Toshinori Sasaki
Alias The Invincible
Super Monster
Guardian of the Universe
The Last Hope
The Brave
The Absolute Guardian of the Universe
Friend Of All Children
Guardian Supermonster[1]

Gamera ( ガメラ ) is a fictional giant monster or kaiju originating from a series of Japanese tokusatsu films of the same name. He first appeared in Daiei Film's 1965 film Gamera: The Giant Monster, which was initially produced to rival the success of Toho's Godzilla; however, Gamera has gained fame and notoriety as a Japanese icon in his own right.[2] The character has appeared in other media such as comic books and video games.

In the United States, Gamera attained prominence during the 1970s due to the burgeoning popularity of UHF television stations featuring Saturday afternoon matinee showcases like Creature Double Feature and later in the 1990s when five Gamera films were featured on the TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000.



Gamera has the general configuration of a turtle, albeit a tremendously large one that is capable of walking on two legs and flying. He does occasionally walk on all four legs in his first three films. Gamera demonstrates the ability to manipulate objects with his forefeet. He possesses a pronounced sagittal crest on top of his head and his mouth is filled with teeth, which is unprecedented in turtles – with the exception perhaps of the prehistoric turtles Proganochelys and Odontochelys – plus a pair of large tusks protruding upward from the lower jaw.


In the Shōwa series, Gamera was a titanic, fire-breathing, prehistoric species of turtle who fed on flames, coal, magma, petroleum-based materials, and other substances conducive for producing heat or combustion, presumably giving him the ability to breathe fire and fly by "jets" ignited when the monster retracts his legs  – he can then propel itself by rising up into and spinning through the air with all four legs in and (as shown in later films) can fly straight with just the rear legs drawn inside his shell.

The original movie begins showing bombers of the USSR being intercepted by American fighters over US air space in the Arctic. The Soviet pilots refuse to be forced down because of the presence of atomic bombs on board their aircraft, so they attempt to leave the area. However, the fighters launch an attack and one of the bombers crashes. A nuclear blast ensues, releasing a giant turtle from suspended animation in the ice.

The incident unfolds over the heads of a Japanese research team who have stumbled upon an Eskimo tribe in possession of an artifact, an ancient stone etching, that suggests the giant turtle (maybe more than one) had been observed and duly noted at some earlier time in mankind's history. The tribe refers to the turtle as "Gamera" in their legends.

In the Heisei series, starting with Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), the origin of Gamera was tweaked to make the theme much more directly heroic: a bio-engineered Guardian of the Universe created by Atlantis with the purpose of defeating Gyaos, another ancient creation capable of killing all human life. The giant turtle is found floating adrift in the Pacific, encased in rock and mistaken for an atoll. Within the rock, investigators discover a large monolith explaining Gamera's purpose, as well as dozens of orichalcum magatama, which allow a psychic link between Gamera and humans.

In the third film of the series, Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999), an undersea graveyard is found with many other Gamera fossils, suggesting that Gamera was not the only member of his kind created. One character in the film refers to these fossils as "beta versions" of Gamera, possible failures in Atlantis' attempts to create the final version. Another scene provides Gamera with a link to Asian folklore, with a character relating a story in which a giant turtle is considered the Guardian of the North, with separate rival creatures defending the East, West, and South.

Gamera's continuity was rebooted again in 2006 with Gamera the Brave. The film begins with the original Gamera sacrificing himself to destroy three Gyaos in 1973. 33 years later, a young boy finds a strange, glowing red rock near his home with a small egg lying on top of it. A fairly normal-looking baby turtle soon hatches from the egg, but begins to grow at an alarming rate. The turtle, now named "Toto" by his pre-adolescent owner, quickly develops Gamera's classic abilities to breathe fire and fly, and attempts to ward off another attacking monster, Zedus, but is too weak to succeed. Only after eating the glowing rock found with his egg does the new Gamera achieve his full power, defeating Zedus and flying off into the sky.

A new film was planned for release in 2016, being a third reboot to the timeline. A trailer was released by Kadokawa on October 8, 2015,[3] showing Gamera fighting a horde of Gyaos ten years before the present day, and challenging a new monster ten years later. The new film has still not been made as of 2017.


Gamera's shell is extremely resilient and strong. Missiles and other weaponry merely bounce off of it, along with most of his opponents' attacks. There have been a few times where his shell has faltered, most notably when the alien monster Guiron hammered at the same spot several times and began cutting through. The flying monster Gyaos' sonic beam, the alien shark Zigra's paralyzing beam and the mutant lizard Barugon's rainbow ray could not penetrate Gamera's shell, shown in the films when he withdraws into his shell to avoid the attacks, although Gamera will involuntarily stretch his neck out of his shell if it is hit hard enough, once again seen during the fight with Guiron. Gamera's underbelly, however, is softer and not as resilient and he has been cut and gouged in his stomach to the point of violently bleeding.

In the Showa series, Gamera fed on fire and was attracted by other heat sources such as power plants and Barugon's rainbow ray. He could breathe intensely hot streams of flame 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 of Earth, and release an extremely powerful stream of pure plasma from his chest. In the final film of the Heisei series, Gamera blasted his own arm off and absorbed plasma fireballs shot by the Southern Guardian monster Iris, then used his stump to grow back his arm in a plasmic form.

Gamera also has the ability to fly. Generally, Gamera pulls in his arms, legs, head and tail into his shell, emits flames out of his arm and leg cavities, then rises up into and spins around through the air like a flying saucer. This mode of flight had an added advantage in the later films, where he used the sharp edges of his shell to cut enemies while spinning, similar to a circular saw. He has a second way of flying where he only pulls in his legs and/or tail, fires flames from the leg cavities and flies like a jet plane. In the Heisei era films, Gamera's arms would extend and stretch out into wing-like limbs similar to the flippers of a sea turtle whilst using this form of flight, giving him added aerodynamics and control.

The Heisei films gave Gamera one more additional weapon: a pair of sharp spikes protruding from his elbows. In his first Heisei appearance, these spikes were hidden during the majority of the film, extending only when needed in battle. In later appearances they were permanently extended.

When seriously or gravely injured, Gamera can enter a coma-like state in order to heal. This often fools his opponents into thinking that he is dead. This ability has been used in almost every Gamera film.

Gamera's only major weakness is cold. Barugon was able to achieve success against Gamera by using his freeze gas from his tongue and scientists nearly defeated Gamera during his first appearance using special freeze bombs. This weakness was only shown in Gamera's first two films.

Film history[edit]

Shōwa period (1965-1980)[edit]

Gamera made his first appearance in 1965's Gamera: The Giant Monster, which was also the only Gamera film to be shot in black and white. In 1966, the movie was released in America as Gammera the Invincible. Subsequent films, usually directed by Noriaki Yuasa and written by Nisan Takahashi, quickly became a big hit with children, who loved watching Gamera fight monsters. A total of seven films were produced on a one-film-a-year basis between 1965 and 1971. An eighth entry was slated for a 1972 release, tentatively titled Gamera vs. Garasharp.[4][5] Gross mismanagement of Daiei, however, put the company into bankruptcy, and the Gamera films were forced to cease production.

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. The filmmakers were forced to make the movie because of the contracts for one more Gamera film they owed at Daiei. The majority of the film used stock footage (with limited new scenes of Gamera flying) and acted as a "recap" of Gamera's history. However, when production of the film began, Yuasa saw how poorly Tokuma Shoten was handling things and knew that Gamera's reputation could never recover from the film. So he had Takahashi rewrite the ending into one where Gamera was killed at the end.

Heisei period (1995-1999)[edit]

Starting with Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), three Gyaos are discovered on a remote island. The Japanese government discovers that they are all female and decides that since they are the last of their kind, they should be captured and studied. Meanwhile, a search has been assembled for a moving atoll in the Pacific. They find it, small gems made of an unknown metal, and a stone sticking up out of the center of it. They manage to take pictures and collect some of the strange gems, but the stone crumbles and the atoll takes off towards Japan at high speeds. It ends up that the atoll is actually an ancient monster, made by the Atlanteans, called Gamera. He attacks the Gyaos, killing two, but one escapes. The remaining Gyaos grows to Gamera-like proportions and the two battle. Gamera manages to defeat his foe, and heads out to sea.

In Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996), Earth was attacked by an alien force known as Legion.

In Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris (1999), Gamera had to face hordes of Gyaos and his ultimate foe, Iris.

Millennium period (2006)[edit]

Gamera the Brave (2006) returns Gamera to his Showa roots, but with a modern twist. In the film, Gamera is first seen defending Japan back in the 1970s from three Gyaos, but sacrifices his life to destroy them by self-destructing. In the present, the child of a man who witnessed that battle finds an egg that hatches into a baby Gamera that he names Toto. When a giant lizard monster named Zedus appears, Toto tries to fight the beast, but ends up being gravely wounded and taken by the military for study. He ends up escaping and growing to a larger size to try and fight Zedus again, this time succeeding against the monster.


In March 2014, Anime News Network reported that a new Gamera production was planned, with no release date specified.[6] In October 2015, Kadokawa Daiei Studios' senior managing director Tsuyoshi Kikuchi and producer Shinichiro Inoue screened a proof-of-concept trailer at New York Comic-Con, revealing plans to commemorate the Gamera franchise's 50th anniversary by producing a new film reboot, simply titled Gamera, to be directed by Katsuhito Ishii.[7] The proof-of-concept trailer featured a newly designed Gamera, a swarm of Gyaos and a new monster, all of which were completely created and rendered via CGI.[8] As of 2017, the planned reboot film has still not been made.


Showa Series[edit]

Film Original release date Notes Availability
Gamera: The Giant Monster November 27, 1965 The first Gamera film, the first and only Gamera film to be made in black and white and the only solo Gamera film. Shout! Factory DVD
Gamera vs. Barugon April 17, 1966 The only Showa Gamera film not to feature any young children as main characters. Shout! Factory DVD
Gamera vs. Gyaos March 15, 1967 The first appearance of Gamera's main opponent Gyaos. Shout! Factory DVD
Gamera vs. Viras March 20, 1968 The first of the three Showa Gamera films not to be re-released and re-dubbed by Sandy Frank. The first Gamera film to feature a large amount of stock footage from the previous films. Shout! Factory DVD
Gamera vs. Guiron March 21, 1969 The first film to show a different species of Gyaos known as Space Gyaos; this concept would be used again in later Gamera films. Shout! Factory DVD
Gamera vs. Jiger March 21, 1970 The second of the three Showa Gamera films not to be re-released and re-dubbed by Sandy Frank. The first Gamera film which Gamera fights a female monster rather than a male monster as in the previous films. Shout! Factory DVD
Gamera vs. Zigra July 17, 1971 The last Gamera film that was made until nine years later; there was going to be a new Gamera film planned for 1972 known as Gamera vs. Garasharp, but it was cancelled due to Daiei going bankrupt and never even made it out of pre-production. Shout! Factory DVD
Gamera: Super Monster March 20, 1980 The third and last of the three Showa Gamera films not to be re-released and re-dubbed by Sandy Frank. The last Gamera film in the Showa series. Shout! Factory DVD

Heisei Series[edit]

Film Original release date Notes Availability
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe March 11, 1995 The first film of the Heisei Gamera trilogy. This is the first reboot of the Gamera film series and the first of three Gamera films (this one and the next two following) that were not released by Daiei, but by Toho. ADV Films DVD
Gamera 2: Attack of Legion July 13, 1996 The second film of the Heisei Gamera trilogy. ADV Films DVD
Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris March 3, 1999 The third and last film of the Heisei Gamera trilogy. ADV Films DVD

Millennium Series[edit]

Film Original release date Notes Availability
Gamera the Brave April 29, 2006 The first and only Gamera film in the Millennium series. This is the second reboot of the Gamera film series and the first film where Gamera is not the main character; the film instead focuses on his son, named Toto. Media Blasters DVD

Other media[edit]


A version of the first Gamera movie with footage of American actors Brian Donlevy and Albert Dekker was released by Alpha Video in 2003 as Gammera the Invincible. In 2010, Shout! Factory acquired the rights from Kadokawa Pictures for all eight of the Showa Gamera films in order to release the uncut Japanese versions on DVD for the first time ever in North America. These "Special Edition" DVDs were released in sequential order, starting with Gamera: The Giant Monster on May 18, 2010, followed by Gamera vs. Barugon and two double-features: Gamera vs. Gyaos with Gamera vs. Viras, and Gamera vs. Guiron with Gamera vs. Jiger. On March 15, 2011, Shout! Factory released the last of the series in a double feature of Gamera vs. Zigra with Gamera: Super Monster. Shout! Factory later released MST3K vs. Gamera, a special twenty-first volume of Mystery Science Theater 3000 containing the episodes featuring all five Gamera movies from the show's third season. The three Heisei trilogy films were re-released on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment on September 27, 2011. On April 29, 2014, Mill Creek Entertainment released the eight Showa Gamera films (1965–1980) on Blu-ray in two volumes, Gamera: The Ultimate Collection Volume 1 and Gamera: The Ultimate Collection Volume 2, featuring the original Japanese audio only with English subtitles and also the first 11 films (1965–1999) on DVD as The Gamera Legacy Collection: 1965 - 1999, featuring the original widescreen video and original Japanese audio only with English subtitles.[9]

The first issue of the Gamera comic book miniseries by Dark Horse Comics


Dark Horse Comics published a four-issue miniseries based on Gamera called Gamera the Guardian of the Universe in 1996.[10] The comic served as a follow-up to the film of the same name and featured classic monsters including Zigra, Viras and the Heisei incarnation of Gyaos. The characters Mayumi Nagamine and Asagi Kusanagi were also featured in the comic, however, Asagi only had a minor supporting role.

Akira Toriyama's manga series Dr. Slump features Gamera in book 4, considerably smaller than he is portrayed in films or other comic books.

Gamera also makes an appearance in another manga by Toriyama, Dragon Ball. Here, too, he was smaller than usually portrayed. He is summoned to help Kame-Sennin traverse the ocean to Fry-Pan Mountain in volume 2.

Gamera also appears in the Kinnikuman manga series.


The Justice League Unlimited episode "Chaos at the Earth's Core" features a monster very similar to Gamera, in both appearance and abilities, that fights League members Green Lantern, S.T.R.I.P.E., and Stargirl. Mystery Science Theater 3000 aired Gamera vs. Zigra. The 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series also featured Donatello mutating into a form visually similar to Gamera, while the 2012 series' reimagining of Tokka resembled Gamera in both size and abilities. In The Simpsons Homer, who seems to be like Godzilla, fought with a giant turtle which seems to be Gamera as he is shown flying from the ground.


Website in their series Death Battle pitted Gamera against Godzilla for episode 35 of Season 2 of the web series. Godzilla won the fight.

Video games[edit]

  • Gamera 2000 is a PlayStation game released exclusively in Japan in 1997.[11]
  • Gamera: Daikaiju Kuchu Kessen (lit. Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Battle / Original japanese title for Gamera, Guardian of the Universe) is a Game Boy title released to coincide with the movie.
  • Gamera: Gyaosu Gekimetsu Sakusen is another Japan-only game for the Super Famicom released in 1995.[12]
  • Gamera: The Time Adventurer is another Japan-only game for the lesser-known Bandai Playdia released in 1995.[13]
  • Gamera appears in the game City Shrouded in Shadow, published by Bandai Namco.[14] He first makes a minor appearance by the conclusion of Level 2 to deal with an infestation of Legion Soldiers in the city. He next appears by the end of the Gyaos-infested Level 10 to kill one chasing the player with a fireball. In mirroring Gamera 2: Attack of Legion, he arrives in Level 16 to prevent Legion's Flower from detonating, but fails. By the time of the explosion, the player, a civilian, should have already made it out of the area.

Side Note: A VMU (Visual Memory Unit) was released for the Sega Dreamcast in 1999 themed around Gamera.[15]


The University of Maryland Gamera Human Powered Helicopter took its name from Gamera. Since the University mascot is a diamondback terrapin, the craft would be a flying turtle.

In July 2011, Washington State University veterinarians successfully fixed a prosthetic caster onto an African spur-thighed tortoise named Gamera, who was a single amputee.[16]

The extinct Cretaceous baenid turtle Gamerabaena sonsalla was named for Gamera.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chipps, Dave. "Gamera: Guardian of The Universe". Dark Horse Comics. 
  2. ^ GORIZARD TV (12 March 2015). "GAMERA – A Retrospective Look at the Gamera Franchise" – via YouTube. 
  3. ^ "YouTube". 
  4. ^ "Gamera vs. Garasharp: The Gamera that Never Was". Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  5. ^ 『ガメラ対大邪獣ガラシャープ』 をちゃんと製作して欲しい。 (in Japanese). Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  6. ^ "New Gamera Project Listed by Retailer". 
  7. ^ Ragone, August (October 8, 2015). "TITANIC TERRAPIN SET TO RETURN IN "GAMERA"! Director Announced, Trailer Screened at NYCC!". The Good, The Bad, and Godzilla. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  8. ^ "Gamera – NYCC Trailer". Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  9. ^ "New Gamera Blu-ray and DVD Sets from Mill Creek in April". 25 February 2014. 
  10. ^ "GCD :: Covers :: Gamera". 
  11. ^ "RF Generation: Gamera 2000 (Sony PlayStation)". 
  12. ^ "RF Generation: Gamera: Gyaos Gekinetsu Sakusen (Nintendo Super Famicom)". 
  13. ^ "RF Generation: Gamera: The Time Adventure (Bandai Playdia)". 
  14. ^ Romano, Sal (May 30, 2017). "City Shrouded in Shadow now PS4-only, launches this fall in Japan [Update 3]". Gematsu. Retrieved May 30, 2017. 
  15. ^ "RF Generation: Visual Memory Unit (Sega Dreamcast)". 
  16. ^ "Meet Gamera, the all terrain tortoise with a wheel for a leg", Time, July 25, 2011 

External links[edit]