Sanda (サンダ) & Gaira (ガイラ)
FIRST APPEARS IN:
The War of the Gargantuas, 1966
– rocking haircuts that lie somewhere between Frankenstein and The Beatles
– giant gnashing chompers
– hairy bods
SKILLS AND QUIRKS:
– cloning themselves
– unique personalities
– picking up terrified ladies
– rolling around
– water fighting
– ship sinking
Holy fuck! The War of the Gargantuas is pretty bloody great! A sort-of-kind-of-but-not-really sequel to Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965), Toho’s ridiculous rendition of Frankenstein, The War of the Gargantuas follows a big green hairy water-loving guy called Gaira. Gaira shows up out of the blue — quite literally, the ocean — and starts causing trouble for passing ships. Everyone thinks the mysterious Gaira is Frankenstein. You see, Frankenstein, or ‘Frankenstein’ in quotation marks, was an ape-man raised in a lab. Yes, in this case Frankenstein is the monster. His backstory seems to have little to do with the previous film. But anyway, back to Gaira…
Turns out everybody’s right: Gaira is Frankenstein. Sort of. Kind of. Not really. He’s a Frankenstein. In his apparent demise, Frankenstein’s cells have floated off into the ocean to create an oceanic replica. Gaira the watery clone, unlike the gentle Frankenstein, is an angry motherfucker. He loves destroying things and picking up terrified ladies then dropping them from decent heights. He smashes the living shit out of a bunch of stuff for a solid while, until the army manages to force him away from the city using light (he hates light). Gaira is battered silly by the army and is close to being killed, but his murder is interrupted by another giant Frankenstein! He’s bigger and, instead of a watery green, he’s mountainous orange. This is Sanda!
Sanda is the real deal — he is the Frankenstein, the one who grew up in a lab. Despite saving his violent clone, Sanda is generally a pretty nice giant. Sanda isn’t out to fuck shit up like Gaira. He does admittedly share a penchant for picking up terrified ladies, but he’s doing it to save them, not just for a laugh. The scientists who brought up Sanda want him saved and returned to the lab for more studies. The army, quite reasonably, wants both giant monsters dead. The uneasy bond between Gaira and Sanda doesn’t last long and soon they’re beating the snot out of each other in what is one of the messiest kaiju brawls Tokyo’s ever seen.
The War of the Gargantuas is hugely fun. It features some of the best miniatures I’ve ever seen from Shōwa era Toho and two of their most fascinating monsters. With their humanoid design, Gaira and Sanda are unique in the world of kaijū cinema. They have distinct personalities, making them far more interesting than your average destructive force of nature. Their opposing colours make for an interesting visual clash, and their overall design is excellent, especially when Gaira becomes bloodied and battered.
If you’re a kaijū fan and you’ve waded your way through every Godzilla and Gamera outing you can find, I would highly recommend seeking out The War of the Gargantues. With its relentless pace and jaw-dropping effects that still pack a punch, this is easily up there with Ishirō Honda’s best. Though Gaira and Sanda are fabulous monsters, I’m glad that their appearances are limited to just this single film. Their short lifespan makes them all the more special. And they haven’t been ruined by lacklustre sequels.