Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
— Japanese tagline
He's Mean. He's Green. He's Back on the Screen! The World's Favorite 200 Foot Turtle is Back!
— North American tagline
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (ガメラ 大怪獣空中決戦 is a Gamera Daikaijū Kūchū Kessen, lit. Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Battle)1995 tokusatsu kaiju film produced by Daiei and the ninth entry in the Gamera series. This film is the first in Shusuke Kaneko's Gamera trilogy and the first Gamera film to be released by Toho. It was released to Japanese theaters on March 11th, 1995, and to American theaters on April 16th, 1997.
A reboot to the Gamera franchise commemorating the series' 30th anniversary, G1 begins with the Kairyu-Maru running aground on a floating atoll off the coast of the Philippines while transporting a shipment of plutonium. The atoll mysteriously floats away leaving the ship unharmed, prompting an investigation headed by Naoya Kusanagi to locate the moving atoll. Meanwhile, ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine and Inspector Osako of the Nagasaki police investigate the disappearance of the entire population of a village on Himegami Island, only to discover a trio of giant man-eating flying creatures. Kusanagi's team finds the atoll, which is littered with magatama and topped with a stone obelisk inscribed with runes. Suddenly, the atoll breaks apart and a huge monster emerges from it, making its way to Fukuoka where the three flying monsters are being captured. The monster from the atoll kills one of the flying monsters but the other two escape, with the monster giving chase by taking flight. Kusanagi investigates the incription from the obelisk and learns that it tells of "the Last Hope, Gamera" and the "Shadow of Evil, Gyaos." He concludes that the monster from the atoll must be Gamera while the flying monsters are Gyaos. Now, Kusanagi and Nagamine must work to convince the JSDF that Gamera is on their side before Gyaos can evolve further and threaten all of humanity, while Kusanagi's daughter Asagi forms a telepathic bond to Gamera after touching one of the magatama.
While transporting a large amount of plutonium off the coast of the Philippines, the ship Kairyu-Maru ran aground on a strange floating atoll that seemed to come from nowhere. The atoll then floated away, leaving the ship intact but damaged. Naoya Kusanagi, an insurance representative, is appointed to lead the investigation into the accident. Kusanagi is approached by Yoshinari Yonemori, a crewmember from the Kairyu-Maru's escort ship the Nojima, who insists on taking part in the investigation. Kusanagi tells Yonemori that it would be improper for an employee from the maritime authority to take place in a private investigation, and apologizes. Ever determined, Yonemori goes to Kusanagi's home, where he meets his daughter Asagi. Yonemori prepares dinner to impress Kusanagi, who reluctantly agrees to allow Yonemori to join the investigation when he arrives.
Meanwhile, ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine is approached by Inspector Osako, who asks her to accompany him to Himegami Island to investigate the recent disappearance of a university professor who was investigating the appearance of a large new species of bird. When they arrive on the island, they find the village destroyed and abandoned, as well as a large pile of excrement containing the professor's glasses. After further investigation, Nagamine and Osako discover the source of the devastation: three gigantic bat-like creatures. When night falls, the creatures begin to fly off the island and approach the Japanese mainland. Nagamine and Osako pursue the creatures in a chopper and take photographs, the light from the camera causing the creatures to recoil and fly away. Upon returning to Japan, Nagamine is approached by government representatives, who have determined that the creatures must be captured alive despite the danger they pose to civilians. They appoint Nagamine to devise a plan to capture all three creatures before they can harm anyone else. Nagamine decides to lure all three creatures to the Fukuoka Dome with raw meat, then trap them by closing the roof and shooting them with tranquilizer darts.
While Nagamine's plan is set into motion, the research team comes upon the mysterious floating atoll. Some members of the team climb onto the atoll, where they discover dozens of strange metal beads littering the ground. In the center of the atoll, they find a large stone tablet, inscribed with unknown runes. As they transcribe the runes, the atoll begins to shake, causing the tablet to shatter. A large mass emerges from the atoll and begins to float directly towards Fukuoka. Yonemori gets into a helicopter to warn the JSDF there. Yonemori lands near the Fukuoka Dome just as the flying creatures descend. They begin to eat the meat, but one of them sees a group of soldiers hiding in a dugout. It lunges at them, but is stunned by the flashing stadium lights and brought down with tranquilizers. One creature realizes the trap and flies away, leaving the other two unconscious. The JSDF quickly build metal cages around the creatures and begin to search for the escaped one. As the creature flies towards the open ocean, an even bigger giant turtle emerges from the water and smacks the flying creature into a nearby refinery, which explodes and kills it. The monster then comes ashore, tearing through the city of Fukuoka as it approaches the dome. The JSDF find their hands tied, as the Japanese constitution forbids them from attacking without legislative approval. As the monster nears the dome, Nagamine and Yonemori escape and watch as it tears apart the roof. The creatures inside awaken and fire sonic beams from their mouths to cut through their cages and fly away. The giant turtle then tucks its limbs into its shell and begins to spin like a flying saucer, flying off into the night.
Later, at Kusanagi's house, he and Yonemori examine the magatama recovered from the atoll. They determine that the magatama are composed of orichalcum, a type of metal believed to be mythical which appears in folklore. Kusanagi reveals that the runes transcribed from the tablet are similar to those from ancient Pacific island civilizations, and were successfully translated to Japanese. The translated text speaks of Gamera, the "Last Hope" against the "Shadow of Evil," Gyaos. They determine that the giant turtle which appeared from the atoll must be the Gamera the tablet speaks of, while the giant flying creatures are Gyaos. Kusanagi's daughter Asagi remarks that this is reminiscent of popular legends about lost civilizations such as Atlantis and Lemuria. Kusanagi states that the legend of a lost super-ancient civilization likely spread through multiple cultures, but has a basis in actual fact. He hypothesizes that the tablet and the orichalcum magatama were left behind by such a super-ancient civilization to warn modern-day humanity. He believes that Gamera himself was also created by this Atlantean civilization, which would explain how a giant bipedal turtle that flies like a flying saucer could exist. Yonemori gives Asagi one of the magatama, which becomes warm and starts to glow in her hand. Kusanagi states that the magatama are government property, but Yonemori convinces him to let Asagi keep one. Asagi then ties the magatama to a string and begins to wear it as a necklace.
DNA samples recovered from the Gyaos are analyzed by a colleague of Nagamine, revealing something surprising. The Gyaos are all female, and only possess a single pair of chromosomes. Analysis of these chromosomes reveals that they are a perfect pair, with absolutely no genetic waste. Nagamine's colleague tells her that such a genetic makeup is impossible through evolution, and that the Gyaos must have been artificially created by the same Atlantean civilization that created Gamera. He also provides a disturbing implication: if the Gyaos are genetically perfect, it is likely that they can spontaneously change their genetics to become male and reproduce asexually. He states that it is likely that Gyaos have already reproduced and could reproduce again, presaging a disaster for humanity. Nagamine visits Himegami Island again and discovers a Gyaos nest. However, the hatchlings had no parent to feed them, and simply devoured each other. It is apparent that the three Gyaos that appeared on the island were the only members of the nest to survive.
One day, Nagamine responds to a Gyaos sighting in a village. Yonemori and Kusanagi travel to the village to find her, and see her helping a young boy cross a bridge to safety. Nagamine trips and falls, and Yonemori rushes onto the bridge to help her. Just then, a Gyaos descends and prepares to eat them whole, only for Gamera to spit a plasma fireball at it. Gyaos dodges the path of the fireball, but Gamera quickly kills it with another one. However, a second Gyaos appears and fires its supersonic scalpel at the bridge, only for Gamera to block the beam with his hand. After a brief clash, the Gyaos flies away, with Gamera in pursuit. It becomes clear to Kusanagi, Yonemori and Nagamine that Gamera is their ally, while Gyaos is a threat to all of humanity. The JSDF receives approval to carry out military campaigns against Gamera, while the government gives the order to capture Gyaos for further study. Nagamine speaks out to the government, warning them that Gyaos is the true enemy, but they pay no heed. The JSDF launches its first attack against Gamera by shooting him down over Mount Fuji, then attacking him with tanks. Asagi feels strangely drawn to Gamera and convinces a cab driver to take her to Mt. Fuji, even though it is blocked off. As Asagi watches Gamera become wounded by the artillery, she begins to develop cuts and bruises all over her body, corresponding to Gamera's injuries. The surviving Gyaos appears overhead and attacks the downed Gamera with its sonic beam, the injury causing Gamera to retreat and Asagi to pass out.
Asagi is brought to a hospital, where her father visits her. Nagamine and Yonemori arrive and tell Kusanagi it is likely that the orichalcum bead Asagi touched formed a telepathic link between her and Gamera, giving her the role of a priestess. Kusanagi is greatly distressed and refuses to accept it, then brings his daughter home. At a bar, Yonemori and Nagamine discuss the current predicament. Nagamine says that it appears the Atlanteans created Gyaos for some purpose, possibly as a weapon, only for their creations to turn against them and destroy them. They created Gamera as a last-ditch effort to stop the Gyaos and protect the planet should they ever return, but not in time to prevent their civilization's ultimate destruction. Yonemori remarks that the Atlanteans have left humanity a terrible heritage, but Nagamine says it's no different from the pollution mankind wreaks upon the planet today. Nagamine says it's possible that the changes in the Earth's conditions brought about by human activities may be responsible for the Gyaos' reappearance.
In the wilderness, the surviving Gyaos has grown increasingly large by feeding on humans and livestock. Eventually, it grows to 85 meters in height and becomes Super Gyaos. Super Gyaos flies to Tokyo and attacks a train, eating the passengers. Gyaos touches down in the heart of the city and is asleep by sunrise. The JSDF mobilizes and prepares an ambush against Super Gyaos, assuming its aversion to sunlight will make it weak during the day. While the creature is asleep, countless powerful homing surface-to-air missiles are launched at it. During the attack, Nagamine notices Super Gyaos has developed shield plates over its eyes. Super Gyaos is awakened by the attack and flies away, the missiles tracking it. The missiles collide instead with the Tokyo Tower, causing it to collapse. Super Gyaos then builds a nest on the ruined tower's observation deck, shrieking triumphantly. In the waters off Japan, Gamera's injuries heal as he prepares to head to Tokyo and take on Gyaos again. Asagi finally awakens, much to her father's relief, but she states that they need to go to Tokyo immediately.
The next morning, Asagi and her father arrive in Tokyo just as the ground begins to shake and Gamera emerges from underground. He destroys Super Gyaos' nest with a fireball, prompting it to attack him. Gamera and Super Gyaos battle across the city, causing untold destruction. Eventually, they take their battle to the sky, and are pursued by a helicopter containing Kusanagi, Asagi, Nagamine and Yonemori. As Gamera is struck by Gyaos' sonic beam, Asagi develops cuts all over her body. Her father begs her to stop, but she says she can't, and that Gamera is fighting for all of them. Gamera flies into Earth's atmosphere with Gyaos in pursuit, then bites down on his enemy's leg and pile-drives back to the surface. During the descent, Super Gyaos uses its sonic beam to sever its own foot and escape Gamera's grip. Gamera crashes into a refinery and is consumed in a fiery explosion, while Gyaos descends to the ground slowly. Gyaos appears triumphant, but Asagi clutches her magatama and clasps her father's hand, after which all of the fire is absorbed by Gamera, who is still standing. Super Gyaos charges a powerful supersonic scalpel and fires it at Gamera, who counters with a huge plasma fireball, which collides with Super Gyaos and blows its head clean off. Super Gyaos' headless corpse falls backwards and explodes. Gamera roars triumphantly and glances at Asagi before returning to the ocean. As Gamera wades out to sea, Asago remarks that she can no longer read Gamera's thoughts. Nagamine remarks that it is likely that more Gyaos eggs are located throughout the world, and that Gamera might not be there to save them next time. Asagi confidently says that Gamera will come again.
- Main article: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe/Credits.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Shusuke Kaneko
- Written by Kazunori Ito
- Produced by Tsutomu Tsuchikawa
- Executive producers Hiroyuki Kato, Seiji Urushido, Shigero Uhno
- Music by Kow Otani
- Cinematography by Junichi Tozawa, Kenji Takama
- Edited by Shizuo Arakawa
- Production design by Hajime Oikawa
- Assistant director Shozo Katashima
- Director of special effects Shinji Higuchi
- Theme song "The Myth" performed by Bakufu Slump
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
Arrival Films English dub
ADV Films English dub
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
Weapons, vehicles, and races
- Main article: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe/Gallery.
- Main article: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (Soundtrack).
- Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Battle (literal Japanese title)
- Gamera the Guardian of the Universe (U.S. theatrical title)
- Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe (alternate stylization)
- Gamera: The Gurdian of Universe (Japanese 4K Blu-ray English title)
- Japan - March 11, 1995 [view poster]
- United States - April 16, 1997 [view poster]
- United Kingdom - 1997
- Spain - 1990s
ADV Films screened a subtitled print of Gamera: Guardian of the Universe at film festivals and conventions in the United States and Canada from 1996 to 1997, under the title Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe. ADV later dubbed the film into English under the direction of Matt Greenfield. The Japanese end credits song, "The Myth," was replaced with an original English-language song titled "Gamera Always Wins" composed and performed by Charles Campbell with lyrics by Greenfield. ADV released this dubbed version to VHS in 1997, and to DVD in 2003 as Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. The DVD included both its English dub and the original Japanese audio.
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was released on VHS in the United Kingdom by Manga Video, who commissioned its own individual English dub for the film produced by Arrival Films and replaced the film's score with techno music provided by Truelove Label Collective. Manga Video's version of the film was released to DVD in May 2002 as an exclusive sold with that month's issue of PlayNation.
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe recorded an attendance of 900,000 and grossed 520 million yen during its 1995 Japanese theatrical run.
Overall, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was received fairly well by fans of the Gamera franchise, and even gained decent critical reception in both Japan and the West. It was rated the sixth best Japanese film of 1995 by the movie magazine Kinema Junpo. It was the only kaiju film to rank in Kinema Junpo's top ten until Shin Godzilla in 2016, co-directed by this film's special effects director Shinji Higuchi. Kinema Junpo also ranked Gamera: Guardian of the Universe in its list of the "Greatest 100 Japanese Movies." The film and its staff and cast were nominated for and won several awards in Japan. In a 1995 interview, Koichi Kawakita, the director of special effects for all of the Heisei Godzilla films from Godzilla vs. Biollante through Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, said he found the film "enjoyable." He recounted that he had met Shusuke Kaneko after finishing shooting on Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, and sensed that he seemed to place a great deal of thought into his work, and for that reason he thought that Gamera: Guardian of the Universe might be very successful. Kawakita elaborated on his thoughts about the film in the 1998 book Godzilla Days: The Godzilla Movie Chronicles 1954~1998, saying he felt the film did a very good job shooting the monsters from a more grounded human point of view, and that the film's story was also interesting and matched the monster action well.
Notable movie critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, saying: "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe is precisely the kind of movie that I enjoy, despite all rational reasoning. How, you may ask, can I possibly prefer this Japanese monster film about a jet-powered turtle to a megabudget solemnity like Air Force One? It has laughable acting, a ludicrous plot, second-rate special effects and dialogue such as, 'Someday, I'll show you around monster-free Tokyo!' The answer, I think, is that Gamera is more fun." Peter H. Gilmore of Monster Zero said, "All in all, this is a vibrant and energetic film. The monster battles are full of physical grappling as well as energy weapon exchanges, and the excellent suitmation is well augmented by judiciously used CGI." Popcorn Pictures said, "This is just a great, fun kaiju film. ... Gamera finally has a film to rival Godzilla (but he's still second best to the Big G, though) and rid the infamous legacy that has dogged him throughout his motion picture life."
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe received four awards at the 17th Yokohama Film Festival. Shinobu Nakayama was honored multiple times for her role as Mayumi Nagamine, including a nomination for "Best Supporting Actress" at the 19th Japan Academy Awards.
|27th Seiun Awards||Best Dramatic Presentation||Gamera: Guardian of the Universe||Won|
|17th Yokohama Film Festival||Director's Award||Shusuke Kaneko||Won|
|Supporting Actress Award||Shinobu Nakayama||Won|
|Screenplay Award||Kazunori Ito||Won|
|Technical Award||Shinji Higuchi||Won|
|38th Blue Ribbon Awards||Supporting Actress Award||Shinobu Nakayama||Won|
|19th Japan Academy Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Shinobu Nakayama||Nominated|
|Osaka Film Festival||Newcomer Award||Ayako Fujitani||Won|
|Screenplay Award||Kazunori Ito||Won|
Daiei DVD (2001)
- Region: 2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese
- Notes: Also sold as part of the 2001 Gamera: THE BOX (1995-1999) set with Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris and the 2005 Gamera 40th Anniversary Z-Plan DVD-BOX with Gamera, Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gyaos, Gamera vs. Viras, Gamera vs. Guiron, Gamera vs. Jiger, Gamera vs. Zigra, Gamera: Super Monster, Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion, and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris. Reissued as an individual DVD by Kadokawa on October 26, 2007.
Manga Video DVD (2002)
- Region: 2
- Discs: 1
- Audio: English (Stereo, Manga Video dub)
- Special features: None
- Notes: Only sold with the May 2002 issue of PlayNation.
ADV Films DVD (2003)
- Region: 1
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese (2.0 Mono), English (2.0 Mono and 5.1 Surround, A.D. Vision dub)
- Special features: Interview with Shinji Higuchi (31 minutes), footage from the press conference announcing the film's production (5 minutes), three trailers, six TV spots, behind the scenes footage (4 minutes), Yubari Fantasy Film Festival premiere (6 minutes), footage from the film's opening day in Japanese theaters
- Notes: The 5.1 Surround version of the English dub is only available on a 2004 re-release packaged with Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris in the Gamera Complete DVD Collection, or with Destroy All Monsters. Out of print.
Kadokawa Blu-ray / DVD (2009 / 2010)
- Region: 2 (DVD) or A/1 (Blu-ray)
- Discs: 1
- Audio: Japanese
- Notes: Also included in the Heisei Gamera Blu-ray Box with Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, and Gamera the Brave. A digitally remastered DVD using the same master as the Blu-ray was released in 2010.
Mill Creek Blu-ray (2011)
- Region: N/A
- Discs: 2
- Audio: Japanese (DTS-HD HR 5.1), English (Dolby Digital 5.1, ADV Films dub)
- Special features: Gamera Behind the Scenes, Camera Test and Special Effects (both only included in The Gamera Trilogy set)
- Notes: Packaged with Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion. The two films can also be found with Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris in The Gamera Trilogy set, which includes bonus materials for all three films.
Mill Creek DVD (2014) [Gamera: The Legacy Collection]
- Region: 1
- Discs: 4
- Audio: Japanese (Stereo)
- Special features: None
- Notes: Packaged with Gamera: The Giant Monster, Gamera vs. Barugon, Gamera vs. Gyaos, Gamera vs. Viras, Gamera vs. Guiron, Gamera vs. Jiger, Gamera vs. Zigra, Gamera: Super Monster, Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion, and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.
Kadokawa Blu-ray (2016) [Heisei Gamera 4K Digital Restoration Blu-ray Box]
- Region: A/1
- Discs: 6
- Audio: Japanese (DTS HD 5.1 Surround and DTS HD 2 Stereo)
- Subtitles: Japanese
- Special features: Two "Special Contents" discs consisting of over 760 minutes of bonus footage for all four Heisei Gamera films; 200-page "G I-III SFX & Art Photographs" booklet featuring 750 unreleased photos from the Heisei Gamera trilogy; 32-page "G I-IV Complement Books" booklet featuring interviews, plot summaries, Laserdisc cover artwork, and more for all four Heisei Gamera films
- Notes: Packaged with Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion, Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris, and Gamera the Brave.
- In 1998, BBC2 used the footage of the final battle between Gamera and Super Gyaos from this film during its Monster Night (an evening of programming dedicated to giant monster movies). It was used as part of a feature when the presenters of the evening would pretend to bet on the outcome of fights between various monsters.
- Suit actress Yumi Kameyama (Super Gyaos) became the first known actress to portray a kaiju in a film. (Jennie Kaplan has previously portrayed Pigmon in an episode of Ultraman Powered.) Director of special effects Shinji Higuchi chose to have a woman portray Super Gyaos because of a woman's different body shape, and also because he felt it would open the door for more women to work in tokusatsu.
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe features numerous references to the earlier film, Gamera vs. Gyaos. Aside from featuring Gamera battling Gyaos, similarities include the film's poster, which is very reminiscent of the poster for Gamera vs. Gyaos, and the scene where Gyaos severs its own foot to escape from Gamera. Additionally, the films' Japanese titles are also very similar. Gamera vs. Gyaos' Japanese title is 大怪獣空中戦 ガメラ対ギャオス (Daikaijū Kūchū-sen: Gamera tai Gyaosu), which translates to Giant Monster Dogfight: Gamera vs. Gyaos, while Gamera: Guardian of the Universe's Japanese title is ガメラ 大怪獣空中決戦 (Gamera: Daikaijū Kūchū Kessen), which translates to Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Battle.
- The Japan Coast Guard patrol boat Nojima which appears in the opening of the film was actually a real vessel. It was retired by the Japan Coast Guard in 2017 and given to the Malaysian Maritime Law Enforcement Agency, where it was rechristened Arau.
- Actor Akira Kubo, known for appearing in several of Toho's Godzilla and other kaiju films during the Showa era, plays a minor role in this film as the captain of the Kairyu-Maru. Kojiro Hongo, who starred in three of the Showa Gamera films, also appears as the captain of the Nojima.
- Dark Horse published a four-issue comic miniseries set after the events of this film in 1996, titled Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe. It features Asagi Kusanagi and Mayumi Nagamine once again assisting Gamera, this time against a cloned Gyaos, Zigra, and Jiger. The comic was translated into Japanese and republished in Japan as a collected volume by Phase 6 in 2018, including with it as a bonus Matt Frank's prequel doujinshi The Last Hope. Both are included in Arrow Video's Gamera: The Complete Collection Blu-ray box set.
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