Believe in Gamera

Expo ‘70 stood as a place of unity. It existed to show mankind’s technological progress, each nation presenting their culture, innovation, and talents. Gamera vs Jiger makes this event central to its plot, partly from Daiei’s insistence, but also to depict Japan as a newly progressive, welcoming nation. When Jiger approaches the site and characters worry about potential destruction, that’s more than marketing – there’s genuine fear a symbol of togetherness will fall because Japan didn’t stop the disaster.

Jiger, another ridiculous, flying, spike-shooting monster from Daiei’s unrestrained design department, appears because Japan snatched an ancient statute from a fictional island. Gamera vs Barugon took a similar route, but Gamera vs Jiger’s tone is more dismissive. Authorities sneer at curses and legends, even as one trashes their cities. “Don’t say that! It’s unscientific,” says one, shooting down any theory not based in learned logic.

Gamera vs Jiger walks away mostly unscathed

The backdrop suits Gamera sequel lore, putting kids in charge. Hiroshi (Tsutomo Takakuwa) and Tommy (Kelly Varis) do some absurd yet cool things, like piloting a mini-submarine inside an injured Gamera. Importantly though, they absorb ancient culture, their minds still pure and accepting; it all makes sense to them. Director Noriaki Yuasa often spoke how his Gamera films were meant to show adults the way kids process logic, and listening to them mattered. Gamera vs Jiger was his most adamant effort in sticking that theme, because it’s less about kids acting smarter than adults than it is understanding and believing in any possibility; adults lose that ability.

Gamera vs Jiger walks away mostly unscathed. Although Daiei’s rapidly declining fortunes at the time take their toll, this is last of the original series to utilize city destruction, and some impressive tracking shots across miniatures to display scale. Knowing the circumstances, it’s incredible to see, no matter how ludicrous the monster action turns (and it’s flagrantly dopey).

As it begins, Gamera vs Jiger exudes excitement. The Expo is everything, Japan themselves recovered after WWII, and other nations were willing to join in the celebration. Then Japan makes another judgmental error, disrespecting a small island, and unleashing Jiger’s fury. Hiroshi and Tommy get it. Those in power don’t, and historical context is lost on them. When grade schoolers see your mistake, it’s time to admit those wrongs.

Video

Wide shots in this master show definite concern. Ringing becomes a persistent issue, obnoxious and limiting detail, while weakening visible resolution. Edges look harsh, as if marred by a sloppy upscale. A little aliasing suggests as much too.

Yet this still looks more than adequate. Texture on monster suits bests any previous edition when in close. Miniatures not affected by ringing/halos reveal their hand-crafted techniques. On occasion, facial texture appears on the actors, and Akira Natsuki’s beard is ever so visibly fake.

A slight yellowing aside, bold primary colors give the Expo a lift. Jiger’s reddish/brown hide stands out, along with his beam weapon. Rich saturation continues for the duration, even during darker scenes where dense blues appear. Contrast helps too, perky enough, much like black levels. Image density and depth both impress.

Audio

The minor score isn’t posing a particular challenge for either the English dub or Japanese track (both DTS-HD). Treble pushes through strained and thin. In general, music stays seated under the action, allowing stock sound effects to play out cleanly.

Balance maintains dialog alongside action, well balanced and pure.

Extras

A rather dull commentary comes courtesy of Edward H. Holland, and from there, August Ragone provides a detailed introduction. An image gallery, trailers, and opening credits for the US version follow.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Gamera vs Jiger
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A last gasp of sorts, Gamera vs Jiger brings back city destruction to a story that encapsulates the overarching theme about believing in children.

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