Gamera (ガメラ)

Showa era: Gamera (1965)
Heisei era: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

– wacky tusks
– a face of permanent fury
– turtle exterior

– spinning through the air like a UFO circa 1956
– accidentally murdering humans
– saving the world
– firing plasma fireballs from his mouth


Let’s not beat around the bush. The Gamera series of the Showa era doesn’t hold a candle to the Godzilla flicks of that time period. Godzilla has had his clunkers, but the good far, far outweighs the bad. Showa era Gamera is a lot of fun (and the first entry in the series is fantastic), but he doesn’t quite reach the destructive heights of his more famous kaijū colleague’s outings. Gamera’s Heisei efforts, on the other hand, are every bit the equal of the Godzilla films of the 80s and 90s. The trilogy that begins with Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) and ends with Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys (1999), peaking with Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996) as its centrepiece, is fantastic. I’d go as far to say that Gamera 2 may even be better than any other Godzilla film from the 1990s.

It’s hard to believe that a giant turtle could be successfully presented as a bad ass, but the folks behind the Heisei trilogy pull it off. In these three films, Gamera is both terrifying and lovable. As he smashes his way through hoards of Gyaos and fights painful battles with Legion and Irys, it is impossible not to cheer him on. These films do what so many kaijū films fail to achieve: they create a sympathetic giant monster, a monster that I became rather emotionally attached throughout the trilogy. A lot of this comes down to Gamera’s amazing design. Gamera looks imposing enough to be taken seriously, yet his facial features allow his personality to shine through.

The Heisei era Gamera trilogy is as good a place as any to begin your journey with Japan’s favourite giant turtle. While the Showa films of the 60s and 70s are entertaining and will please kaijū fans, these latter day Gamera efforts should be enjoyable even to those that don’t have an invested interest in overgrown Japanese monsters. The three films compliment each other perfectly and, while the second entry is my favourite (not only my favourite of the trilogy, but one of my favourite kaijū films ever), Gamera 3 is a satisfying conclusion. Check them out – they can be easily bought in a set or individually on blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment. They’re ridiculously cheap too!