FIRST APPEARS IN:
Giant Phantom Monster Agon, 1968
– a strong resemblance to Toho’s famous figurehead
– a fully functioning chest
SKILLS AND QUIRKS:
– sniffing out uranium
– chowing down on boats
– kidnapping children
– stomping on things
– getting caught on fire
– chilling underwater
Giant Phantom Monster Agon, or Agon: Atomic Dragon as its known internationally, is a mini-series with a strange and somewhat chequered past. Shot in 1964, this short-lived, four episode television show wasn’t released until years after its production. Its delay was partly due to a minor legal clash with Toho. Upon seeing the series in ’64, Toho decided the titular Agon had far too much in common with Godzilla for their liking.
And it was certainly not a frivolous complaint. Agon is essentially budget Godzilla. His design is similar, right down to his spinal spikes. His abilities are not all that different either. Godzilla has atomic breath, Agon breathes fire. And both monsters have a thing for radioactive materials. Toho dropped their lawsuit when they learned that Toho employees Shinichi Sekizawa and Fuminori Ohashi were involved in the project. Fuji TV finally screened the four episodes of Agon in 1968.
So was it worth the long wait? Not really. Agon is nothing special. In fact, I battled to stay awake through its first two episodes having to spread my viewing of the series over three sessions. That said, as it goes on, it becomes surprisingly packed with kaijū action. Its combined running time of ninety minutes features far more monster action than the average Godzilla film of the era. And though Agon closely resembles his more famous predecessor, there are some unique elements to his design.
Agon doesn’t make the best first impression, but, as he receives more screen time, the execution of the monster costume becomes more impressive, especially for a production company without Toho’s money. Agon breathes — his chest inflating and deflating, resembling a toad or a frog. That might not sound like much, but, off the top of my head, I can’t think of a Japanese monster that is shown breathing in this manner. The movement of Agon’s mouth is effective and not nearly as stiff as some of his 60s kaijū brethren. I’m hoping the suit was also flame retardant, because he spends much of the last act on fire.
Giant Phantom Monster Agon is not going to impress those with little interest in monster movies, but then again, nor would most of Godzilla‘s sequels. Agon doesn’t exactly offer anything new. Its story is generic, its characters bland, and its monster mostly unremarkable. But it’s nice to see a kaijū film that lives outside of the realm of Godzilla, Ultraman and Gamera. He’s also defeated in the last episode by narcotics, making Agon an instant must-see.