Fight to Extinction

There’s a small bit part in Gamera 2, a running gag in the series concerning Osako (Yukijiro Hotaru) who began as a detective in Guardian of the Universe, but in Gamera 2, he’s a mere beer factory guard. Investigating giant monsters rattled him, so he took a demotion. Making the joke stick, he’s first to encounter Gamera’s latest adversary in the sequel.

It seems so non-essential, so insignificant, but it’s not. Where kaiju films become matters of scale, with entire cities toppling during battles, Gamera 2 finds a tiny slice to represent society at large. Imagine not only the people displaced as they evacuate cities, but those who leave their jobs, the businesses that close, or others unable to cope with this new reality. Osako is one of those people.

Gamera 2 sells itself on action, staging dazzling kaiju battles

Osako fits, even in a movie reaching fearful, biblical proportions. There’s a dig against NASA in the opening, as officials (dismal English-speaking actors) decide not to warn people of a meteor threat, instead downplaying it before a collision in Japan. Against Legion, Japan is quite on its own. When the traditional newspaper reel plays, American headlines note the monster, but give more space to taxes, Presidential speeches, and other events. Seemingly without debate, Japan’s government calls their military to action based on a rapid constitutional reading. There’s no waiting for help when this cataclysm relied on unspoken, known dangers.

Legion is a substantial foe, an alien species attempting to terraform Earth, and a design honoring Daiei’s wildest, inspired fantasies. The smallest Legion soldiers move by compressed oxygen, not muscle, and the species devours silicone – a terrifying prospect against a transforming, interconnected world. Because of their appetite, authorities and scientists relent their mobile phones and dial-up modems. No radios, either. A decade or more before the first world’s internet obsession, Gamera 2 already considered an ugly possibility.

Of the three films in the ‘90s Gamera trilogy, this is (arguably, of course) the weakest. Much as it latches onto doomsday-esque, religious parables, those go unfounded. Recurring character Asagi (Ayako Fujitani) feels shuffled into the script, attending a vigil for a downed Gamera, but is otherwise non-existent.

Gamera 2 sells itself on action, staging dazzling kaiju battles, stellar in their practical ingenuity and choreography. They lead to a telling finish where Gamera draws on the world’s power, not just Japan, to strike a final blow. Slightly lighter in overall tone, once the explosions fizzle, Gamera gives humans a judgmental look. It’s a warning, and the last lines note Gamera will always defend Earth itself, not people, when something threatens the planet. We’re close to Gamera’s wrath.

Video

Absolutely beautiful work via Arrow with this release. A new 4K scan brings stellar sharpness to the screen, resolving high fidelity textures like stitches on military uniforms, slick touches on monster suits, and the marvelous miniature work. Facial details pass through a precisely resolved grain structure, held together organically even amid spikes in darker scenes.

At times vividly colored (wait for Asagi’s skiing outfit), saturation provides energetic primaries. Scenes draped in blues at night work just as well, dense and foreboding. The same goes for earlier scenes in a subway. An aurora-like effect near Legion’s pods bring a rich glow to the scenery, sometimes reflecting off snow for additional brilliance.

Black levels have a few off moments, but nothing too detrimental; the cinematography toys with their depth. Mostly, dimension is precise and pure, giving shadows a dominate push, with little crush noted. Set in winter, snowfall keeps things bright, hitting contrast peaks and enlivening overall imagery. Seeing fireballs erupt against a deep night skyline produces all the necessary range.

Audio

Both original Japanese and an English dub come in 5.1 and 2.0 flavors. Sticking with the 5.1, Gamera 2 involves helicopters and flying creatures, all sweeping through the soundstage. Directional flourishes happen everywhere. This mix is in near constant motion. Accuracy ensures panning effects switch channels perfectly.

Sadly, there’s little happening in the low-end. That’s a shame. Destruction lacks a definite punch. While Guardian of the Universe accentuated footsteps, that doesn’t happen here. Not only does range sound pinched, but it’s mixed low, as if released by Disney in one of their restrictive Atmos tracks.

Extras

Documentary filmmmaker/Kaijucast host Kyle Yount draws the commentary card (he’s rich in details too), and like the other discs, August Ragone provides his detailed intro. Arrow includes the Lake Texarkana dub for completionists sake, but personal aside, it just cheapens the film and gives in to bad kaiju film stereotypes. A Testimony of 15 Years’ is another two hour epic, continuing from Guardian of the Universe. An hour of production footage, all subtitled, is next. For 40-minutes, raw effects team work follows and is magic to watch. More set footage lasts three minutes, edited to music.

Daiei’s announcement, the opening day premiere, dubbing outtakes, trailers, and another great image gallery earn this Heisei series disc another perfect score.

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 2: The Advent of the Legion
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Gamera 2 brings a unique, inventive opponent for the title monster to fight in a lesser, if still often spectacular sequel.

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