Titles: Guardian of the Universe, The Last Hope
Featured In: Eleven Films (Currently)
Gamera… Boy, where do I even begin with him? Contrary to Godzilla who was created as a message warning of the possible dangers of nuclear weaponry and the kind of devastation it could wrought both to us as a species and the Earth itself, Gamera was an attempt at banking on the popularity of giant monster movies at the time and he was, and likely still is, one of the oddest of kaiju to come out of Japan.
… Okay, maybe not the oddest but certainly the only one to have his own series of films.
Much like the Gyaos and Irys before him, Gamera is not a natural creature of Earth but one designed and created for a specific purpose by an ancient civilization. This Ancestral People, as they’ll be called henceforth in this review, are of the atypical super genius civilization that fails to realize the one tiny flaw in their creations. This is a trend that can be seen time and time again in many works of fiction and is not limited to alien races or ancient peoples. Still, to be fair, I commend the Ancestral People in trying to clean up their initial mistake but dang if they don’t keep dropping the bloody ball over and over again.
The Gyaos for instance, were created as weapons of war specifically geared to hunt and consume the enemies of the Ancestral People, likely a different faction or even our own budding race. Unfortunately, the fools failed to realize the age-old saying pertaining to “them” and us” in that, in the end of any war, there is only the survivors. Realizing their error, the Ancestral People created a creature that was purposefully designed to cow the Gyaos and was purposefully guided by one of their own. Unfortunately, this creation, later to be named Irys, had a similar appetite to the Gyaos and sought to consume its bonded partner into its core to reach a level of power that was beyond the Ancestral Peoples’ control.
Thus came Gamera, their “last hope” and even he too was a flawed creation in a sense. For you see, Gamera was crafted not to hunt the Gyaos but any and all threats to the Earth. Unfortunately for the Ancestral People, the Earth did not necessarily include them and so they perished by their own folly though they managed one last attempt at “leashing” Gamera in the creation of the orichalcum pendants.
As I stated previously, this pendants not only bind Gamera’s soul with that of a human of great spiritual potential but he draws from his partner the necessary energies to combat whatever threats he might be facing. Unfortunately, this comes at the drawback that the partner, one Asagi Kusanagi, to feel Gamera’s pains and receive the same wounds as he.
Yet, there is an unstated purpose to the jewels. Just as the pendant tie humanity to Gamera so too does it tie him to us for without this connection, Gamera no longer makes it a point to try and protect us, to try and minimalize the collateral damage he can cause.
The best example of this is seen in the first two films as it is shown quite often that Gamera will not only purposefully put himself in harm’s way to protect human lives but will try and focus on defeating his enemies directly and is surprisingly mindful of the environment around him. However, during his confrontation with the Legion and their Queen, the pendants were destroyed as Asagi and a crowd of onlookers fervently prayed for Gamera’s revival following his near death at the hands of a Legion Flower exploding right in his face.
In the third film, which takes place three years after this event Gamera to put it bluntly all but levels the Shibuya district of Tokyo and kills over a twenty thousand people. All so that he could kill two Gyaos. TWO. GYAOS. A pair that were still fledglings and barely any bigger than his forearm! He literal shot a plasma fireball through a skyscraper restaurant filled with people to get at one of them!
That’s what Gamera is capable of when the tether has been taken off.
It’s both awe-inspiring and terrifying.
Because you see dear readers, Gamera’s title of “the Last Hope” is a bit of an understatement. Gamera was specifically designed to face anything that threatens the Earth and this design comes to the fore with every new and greater threat he faces. With the defeat of each and every threat, Gamera “dies” and is reborn stronger and more powerful than before in many surprising ways. This was hinted at throughout the three films with Gamera exhibited new powers and physical changes with the passing years but was fully confirmed in the last film upon the discovery of his graveyard deep in the Pacific Ocean where dozens of his skeletons lay at rest.
Speaking of powers, Gamera’s are one of the most versatile and unique amongst kaiju. He can breathe either a concentrated stream or concussive balls of plasma. Random science fact here kids the hottest state of plasma that we the human race has created thus far can reach 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of the freaking sun. Gamera has no limit to how much of this stuff he can breathe out and has been shown to actually regain health and power from the consumption of mundane flames.
In point of fact, Gamera is something of a pyrokinetic in that he can manipulate fire, both mundane and plasma, to devastating degrees. One such example of this was in the last film. In a final stand-off against Irys, who had pierced Gamera’s hand with one of its spikes and was slowly draining him dry whilst charging up a perfect mimicry of his own plasma fireballs, Gamera blew off his own arm and caught Irys’ attack in the stump to recreate the lost limb as a literal fire arm.
Gamera is also able to consume and utilize “mana” which, in the films, is an ethereal energy that connects all things, places, and people, at least according to the folks at Screwattack. Though he had only done this once, Gamera was able to consume the mana of the Earth itself in order to unleash it all in one focused blast directly from his internal furnace via opening his plastron (the portion of his shell covering his stomach). Unfortunately, utilizing this technique resulted in several hundreds of Gyaos awakening across the entire world.
Yet, one of Gamera’s strangest abilities, and one that he is freakingly, and sometimes (in)famously known for, is his ability to fly. Yes, you read that right dear readers, Gamera, a massive monster of a turtle, can fly in one of two methods. By retracting all of his limbs, head included, into his shell, Gamera can fly by shooting out a repulsing force —which resembles flames but produces a unique and distinctive sound— from his arm and leg ports and is followed by Gamera purposefully spinning like a top and flying in a saucer-like fashion. The other method is where Gamera’s forearms morph into a large pair of airplane wing shaped flippers and he unleashes the ignition repulsion via his leg ports. In either method, Gamera can achieve Mach 3, which is about 2,284 mph.
Contrary to Godzilla who has something of a confrontational approach to his foes, in that he doesn’t stop moving forward until he’s either wiped them out or they’ve gone running, Gamera has something of a strategic retreat method to how he faces his enemies. The first time he faces them, Gamera is either overwhelming them or being overwhelmed himself, such as with the Legion swarm and their Queen. He’s as intelligent as a human, if not even more so, and will utilize any weakness that he finds in his foes and will willingly, and sometimes even purposefully, allow for injury to comprehend their strength and weaknesses.
While Godzilla will always remain as my favorite of all kaiju, Gamera is such a close second he may as well be tied for first. Say what you will of the improbability and near inconceivability of such a creature as Gamera, there is just something utterly amazing at the idea of such a farfetched thing as a flying, fire-breathing turtle capable of so much good and just as much devastation that… that really, I can’t find the appropriate words to describe it.
Though I am sad to say that, as of this post, there is no official plan for something to commemorate fifty years of the Guardian of the Universe, I am glade to proclaim that another fan, and an unbelievably fantastic artist, named Matt Frank is hard at work in creating a fan-made comic to celebrate the big guy’s 50th anniversary appropriately titled as “The Last Hope.”
Completely off topic but I feel it appropriate to mention Gamera has also had a cameo appearance in a popular anime series, one known simply as Dragonball. Don’t believe me? Check this out and tell me otherwise!