Kaiju Profile: Baragon
Written by Astounding Beyond Belief, Les, The King of the Monsters, Titanollante, Surf Kaiju
Edited by Titanollante
Voiced by Koopa
Hey kaiju fans, I'm Koopa, and today we're taking a look at the Subterranean Monster, Baragon!
Baragon, by some accounts a descendant of the Mesozoic reptile "Baranosdragon," is a kaiju who made his debut in the 1965 Toho film "Frankenstein vs. Baragon," and crossed over into the Godzilla series with "Destroy All Monsters." To date, three distinct incarnations of Baragon have been featured on screen. The First Generation Baragon terrorized the Japanese countryside before having his neck snapped by Frankenstein at Mt. Fuji. A Second Generation Baragon lived on Monsterland at the end of the 20th century and had a minor role in the Kilaak invasion of Earth. The third incarnation of Baragon appeared in 2001's "Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack" as the God of the Earth and one of Japan's three Guardian Monsters. Baragon fell in battle against Godzilla before his fellow Guardians Mothra and King Ghidorah could awaken, though he returned as a spirit and aided in Godzilla's defeat. While not an especially prolific member of Toho's kaiju roster, Baragon maintains his share of fans, many of whom appreciate his cute, dog-like appearance.
Baragon's origins lie in Takeshi Kimura's "Frankenstein vs. Godzilla" screenplay. After Toho decided to pit Godzilla against Mothra instead, Kimura replaced the King of the Monsters with a new reptilian monster and made Frankenstein more sympathetic. While the JSDF treated Godzilla as the lesser of two evils in the original script, Baragon was now indisputably the villain of the story.
Akira Watanabe, who had been working on Toho's kaiju movies since the original "Godzilla," designed Baragon. The Yagi brothers Yasuei and Kanju modeled the body of the suit, Keizo Murase handled the back, and Teizo Toshimitsu sculpted the head. Murase installed an electronic light inside the horn which allowed it to visibly glow.
The monster's suit was lighter than most at the time, and required only a few people to suspend it. For the scenes when Frankenstein lifted and swung Baragon through the air, Haruo Nakajima stepped out of the costume and the special effects staff stuffed it—a technique that would become a staple of the fight scenes in Tsuburaya Productions' "Ultraman" the following year. A miniature doll is used in one scene where Baragon falls off a cliff. This doll would be reused for "Destroy All Monsters," where it's seen standing alongside Varan and Manda at the foot of Mt. Fuji.
After "Frankenstein vs. Baragon" hit theaters, Toho loaned the Baragon suit to Tsuburaya Productions for use in their first TV show, "Ultra Q." To embody the monster Pagos, a new head was crafted for the suit, while the body was covered in cloth and painted over with latex. For "Ultraman" the next year, the suit's head was further altered to create Neronga. Additional spikes allowed it to become Magular, then made way for a neck frill to portray Gabora. After filming on "Ultraman" concluded, Tsuburaya converted the suit back into Neronga and it made public appearances throughout Japan. Since he had worn the costume before, Haruo Nakajima played each and every one of these modified Baragons.
Until the final draft of the screenplay for "Destroy All Monsters," Maguma was meant to attack Paris and destroy the Arc de Triomphe, but the walrus-like kaiju was dropped before filming began and replaced by Baragon. Accordingly, the suit returned to Toho and was converted back into Baragon. Despite its heavy use by Tsuburaya Productions, the decision to cover its torso with cloth had lessened its deterioration. A new head was constructed for the suit, featuring differently-shaped ears. Unfortunately, its screentime was limited to a few shots of Baragon living on Monsterland. Repairs had been time-consuming, and the special effects staff worried that the suit's ears would interfere with its emergence from underneath the Arc de Triomphe. They decided to simply use Gorosaurus from the previous year's "King Kong Escapes" for the scene instead. This change was not actually a last-second alteration as often believed, as storyboards created for the film depict Gorosaurus attacking Paris and preliminary set designs done by Yasuyuki Inoue list Gorosaurus as appearing in the scene. Despite this, a reporter in the film gives Baragon credit for destroying Paris.
Baragon's next film appearance came over 30 years later in "Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack." After director Shusuke Kaneko discarded "Godzilla vs. Kamacuras" and an untitled story where Godzilla duels a monstrously mutated astronaut, he decided to pit Godzilla against three "Guardian Monsters." Kaneko completed his first screenplay for this concept under the title "Godzilla [Against] Varan, Baragon and Anguirus: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack." In this story, the red-hot monster legends called Baragora is renamed "Baragon" by the JSDF. Baragon falls to Godzilla at Owakudani, only to be revived by a lightning bolt and join his fellow guardians Varan and Anguirus for a final battle in Yokohama. Though Godzilla slays the trio, they weaken him enough for the Gotengo to finish him off. Fuyuki Shinada completed concept models of the four monsters, while producer Shogo Tomiyama initially approved the project. However, Toho chairman Isao Matsuoka asked Kaneko to substitute the more popular Mothra and King Ghidorah for Anguirus and Varan, on the grounds that they were, quote, "not flashy enough." Baragon, however, made the cut. … although his name was dropped from the movie's title.
Shinada, along with Tetsuya Yoshida, sculpted Baragon's modular suit, which featured three possible heads and at least two sets of arms. Diminutive actress Rie Ota, who had played Gao White in "Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger," landed the part, helping to portray the considerable size difference between Baragon and Godzilla. Ota became the first woman to portray a kaiju in a Toho film, and the second woman to ever portray a kaiju after Yumi Kaneyama wore the Super Gyaos suit in "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe." Toshinori Sasaki wore a second, larger Baragon suit for more stunt-intensive scenes. Ota was instructed to avoid having her knees touch the ground when performing Baragon's four-legged walk. She accomplished this through a combination of muscle training, constant practice, and limb extensions in the arms of the suit. We would also be doing you all a great disservice if we didn't play the original audio from one of her scenes.
Frankenstein vs. Baragon: Awakened by noise from the Akita oil field, Baragon attacked it from underground, causing tremendous damage. He next emerged at a village near Mount Shirane, where he attacked and feasted upon the locals. Moving onto a nearby farm, Baragon devoured the livestock and returned underground. Since his second and third raids left no survivors, the authorities blamed them on Frankenstein, who had recently escaped from a laboratory in Hiroshima. An Akita oil field worker who had spotted Baragon's glowing horn during his attack soon approached Dr. James Bowen and his colleagues Kenichiro Kawaji and Sueko Togami with his story, although they were unable to clear Frankenstein's name. During a search for Frankenstein, Kawaji revealed he planned to blind the monster with explosives, and promptly attracted Baragon's attention after throwing one. He and Bowen threw the rest of the bombs at Baragon, but to no avail. Just as Baragon was about to eat Sueko, Frankenstein arrived to save her. After grappling with Baragon, he broke off his attack to rescue Kawaji, who had stumbled down a hill. Baragon turned his attention to another village, but Frankenstein again intervened and pursued him to the slopes of Mt. Fuji, where the two creatures began a duel to the death. Frankenstein utilized two torches in the battle, setting the surrounding forest ablaze. After a fierce struggle, he gained the upper hand against Baragon and killed the monster by breaking his neck. The ground beneath him split open. Frankenstein plummeted into the fissure below, never to be seen again.
Destroy All Monsters: At the end of the 20th century, a second, slightly smaller Baragon was among the ten kaiju imprisoned at Monsterland in the Ogasawara Islands. When the Kilaaks invaded Earth and took control of the kaiju, they stationed Baragon near their secret base at Mount Amagi, though he held back as Godzilla, Anguirus, and Rodan defended the area from a JSDF assault. Once the Kilaaks' control over Earth's monsters was severed, Baragon closed in their base alongside his fellow monsters. However, he stood on the sidelines once more as Godzilla and a few of his allies fought and killed the Kilaak's trump card, King Ghidorah. After Godzilla demolished the base and the Moonlight SY-3 took out the last Kilaak saucer, Baragon returned to Monsterland to live out his days in peace.
GMK: Baragon was one of the three Guardian Monsters, along with Mothra and King Ghidorah, who slept for 2,000 years after warring with ancient Japan. The prophet Hirotoshi Isayama awakened him and his counterparts so they could defend the country against a vengeful Godzilla. Baragon first appeared burrowing through an underground tunnel near Mount Myoko, burying a gang of bikers who had just smashed an ancient statue. He eventually surfaced and began to march towards Godzilla, freeing Isayama from prison along the way. When the two monsters finally converged, Baragon's burrowing and ferocity briefly gave him the advantage, but Godzilla's raw power soon turned the tide, as he stomped Baragon into the ground and battered him with his tail. Godzilla finally destroyed Baragon with a particularly powerful blast of atomic breath. While Baragon's body was destroyed, his spirit later manifested alongside those of Mothra and King Ghidorah and entered Godzilla's body, dragging him to the bottom of Yokohama Bay and allowing the minisub Satsuma to deliver a decisive blow with a D-03 Missile.
Burrowing: Baragon is an adept burrower, and can quickly disappear and tunnel across great distances underground. In addition to allowing Baragon to travel quickly, his burrowing triggers destructive earthquakes and renders the surrounding terrain unstable. This is demonstrated in "GMK" when Baragon causes the ground under Godzilla to collapse after digging underneath him, and possibly (...this is unconfirmed…) at the end of "Frankenstein vs. Baragon." An illustration from "All Toho Monsters Pictorial Book" reveals that Baragon's ears flip over his eyes to protect them while burrowing.
Bioluminescent Horn: Baragon can light his own path with his nasal horn. In "Godzilla: Rulers of Earth," it's speculated that his horn functions similarly to Godzilla's dorsal plates, acting as an energy storage structure that glows before he unleashes his Magma Heat Ray, or Death Ray. He uses this ray to soften rocks in order to make it easier for him to burrow. He relied on it heavily in his battles against Frankenstein, although it seemed to frighten his opponent more than anything else. While Baragon has not used this ability in a film since, he retains it in many video games and comics. In the Pipeworks games, it resembles a flamethrower more than a beam. Curiously, some "Frankenstein vs. Baragon" publicity stills depict him shooting lightning from his mouth instead.
Physical Abilities: Baragon is an extraordinary jumper, often relying on this ability to close the distance between himself and his foe. However, his aggressiveness can sometimes be his downfall, as Frankenstein lured him into leaping off a cliff and Godzilla countered one of his pounces with a devastating tail whip. The GMK Baragon also has an impressive grip, latching onto Godzilla's arm and hanging on after repeated blows.
- Baragon in "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla?"
According to a myth that began to spread on English-language Godzilla message boards in the early 2000's, Anguirus' role in "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla" was originally meant for Baragon. While this would seem to explain Anguirus' uncharacteristic burrowing ability in the film, there is no evidence that Baragon was ever in consideration for the movie. In "The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies: The Lost Films," John LeMay proposes that this confusion may stem from the predecessor to King Caesar in an early screenplay for the film, titled "Showdown in Zanpamisaki: Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla." The second word in this monster's name - Barugan - which we romanize as "Balgan," is nearly identical to "Baragon." Anguirus still appears in the "Showdown in Zanpamisaki" screenplay.
- Second Generation Baragon
The Second Generation Baragon may have only rated a cameo in "Destroy All Monsters," but a Japanese book published decades later gave him a backstory. "Everything About Godzilla Movies" explains that Baragon was born in Gunma Prefecture. According to "Godzilla 1954-1999 Super Complete Works," Baragon also sticks close to Anguirus, and underground barriers prevent him from leaving the island.
- Manga Baragon
Baragon naturally appeared in the "Frankenstein vs. the Subterranean Monster" manga adaptation, going through the same motions as he does in the film. The “Destroy All Monsters” manga added him to the fight against King Ghidorah, along with fellow spectators Varan and Manda. Baragon also made cameo appearances in "The Godzilla Comic"'s Gojira-kun strip, and in the first episode of the "Planet of the Monsters" manga.
An unusual depiction of the subterranean monster exists in the 1992 manga series "Godzilla, King of the Monsters." This aquatic kaiju, called Sea Baragon, was manufactured by the mad Doctor Oniyama from the DNA of the Baragon killed by Frankenstein's monster. Sea Baragon was the first of Oniyama's creations to fight the King of Monsters, whom he stabbed with his horn. After Godzilla broke the horn off, the monster was dispatched by a blast of Atomic Breath.
- Polygon Baragon
Baragon has a long history in Godzilla video games, although he has usually been a non-playable character or part of a massive roster of kaiju. His two biggest roles are in "Godzilla: Save the Earth" and "Godzilla: Unleashed," which combine his short stature and roar from "GMK," a version of his Magma Heat Ray from "Frankenstein vs. Baragon," and a ton of fancy acrobatics. Pipeworks also planned to feature him as an exclusive character in the cancelled PlayStation 2 version of "Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee." As DylanRocket discovered, there are still a few traces of him in the Xbox version. Link to that video in the description.
- Baragon on the Small Screen
Baragon appears in all four of the "Godzilland" educational OVAs by Gakken, plus 94 episodes of "Godzilla Island." In "Godzilland," he's voiced by Miki Nagasawa, who also played Maya Ibuki in "Neon Genesis Evangelion."
- Baragon Cameos
Baragon toys appear in "Godzilla vs. Hedorah" and "Godzilla: Final Wars." The latter also uses stock footage from "Frankenstein vs. Baragon" in a montage of kaiju who have menaced the world. Tie-in material to "Tokyo S.O.S." places him in the Kiryu Saga timeline, although he is never referenced in the films themselves. His skull also makes a split-second appearance on a monitor in "Pacific Rim Uprising."
- Baragon vs. the Robot Monster
In Marc Cerasini's final Big G novel, "Godzilla vs. the Robot Monsters," a Baragon mutated by a uranium mine terrorizes Montana. Jack Strongbow, a medicine man from the Blackfoot tribe, halts Baragon's rampage by redirecting lightning bolts. With the monster's weakness discovered, Mechagodzilla drives him off for good using his Shock Anchor cables. Baragon has one other role in Random House's Godzilla books: a cameo in "Who's Afraid of Godzilla?"
- Baragon and the Arc de Triomphe
While Baragon didn't get to attack the Arc de Triomphe in "Destroy All Monsters," he did in fact destroy the landmark in the manga adaptation, and decades later in "Godzilla: Rulers of Earth." Unfortunately for him, Kiryu quickly knocks him out and transports him to the Monster Islands. Magular, one of the monsters originally portrayed by a modified Baragon suit, also emerges from beneath the Arc de Triomphe in the first episode of "Ultraman X."
- "GXBVA" References
In "GODZILLA: Monster Apocalypse," the first prequel novel to the "GODZILLA" anime trilogy, the Monster King faces Baragon, Anguirus, and Varan in battle all at once in Los Angeles. Author Renji Oki admitted in an interview with "Tokusatsu Hiho" that this is indeed a reference to "Godzilla [Against] Varan, Baragon and Anguirus," as "GMK" is one of his favorite films and he wanted to find a way to pay tribute to it. While this Baragon perishes alongside Varan and Anguirus, another Baragon surfaces in China during the events of the follow-up novel, "Project Mechagodzilla." Baragon, Varan, and Anguirus also appear together in the last issue of "Godzilla: Rage Across Time."
And that's all we have for Baragon. Thanks for watching.