The King is Dead

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ersatz Kaiju and LEGO Batman



A kaiju by any other name would destroy as sweetly…


As I’ve written on this blog before, one of my long-term goals (after finishing The King is Dead sometime this year) is to write a kaiju-centric setting book. I’ve kicked around a few ideas on how to approach it – I pitched an article to Savage Insider for a militaristic take on Pacific Rim called Ring of Fire, for instance – but I’m probably going to use my “unified field theory” take, Mecha Kaiju Sensō Tai!!!. Since I obviously won’t be getting the rights to Godzilla and the other Toho monsters, that means I need some knock-offs to fill their roles.


Thankfully, Japan has already provided them.


I believe I first learned about the Four Guardian Beasts/Four Gods/Four Symbols/Shishin from the Gainax anime Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, the same series that introduced me to Abe no Seimei and onmyodou – though they were also mentioned in a context I didn’t understand on an episode of Cowboy Bebop. Basically, they’re four astrological symbols represented as monsters mapped to the cardinal directions.


They are:
  • Seiryu, the Green Dragon, guardian of the East.
  • Suzaku, the Vermillion Bird, guardian of the South.
  • Byakko, the White Tiger, guardian of the West.
  • Genbu, the Black Turtle, guardian of the North.
Hmm… Some of those concepts seem familiar.
  
A dragon lurking the east, where the Pacific Ocean is from Japan’s persepctive?
Godzilla (2014)
A bird monster in the south, perhaps near the city of Fukuoka on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu?
Rodan
  
A turtle in the north?

Gamera: The Giant Monster
The only difficult one to figure out is Byakko, and that’s because of a surfeit of options. I could go with a quadruped, like Anguirus. Playing off the West’s association with the element of metal, I could go with a cyborg or robotic beast, like Gigan or Mechagodzilla. Heck, given that King Kong’s Skull island is usually located near Indonesia – in other words, west of Japan – I could make the mammalian White Tiger the expy for Kong. Any of the above have been rivals or opposites for Godzilla at one time or another.

(It’s not mentioned much in the Japanese version of the Four Guardian Beasts, but there’s actually a fifth beast: Kōryū or Ōryū, the Yellow Dragon, guardian of the Center. A yellow dragon?
Destroy All Monsters
Maybe the reason it’s not mentioned in the Japanese version is because the other four are sealing the Yellow Dragon away, guarding against it? Hmm…)

I’ve used this concept in numerous campaigns with Robin over the years, dating back to before I even started playing Savage Worlds. It isn’t unique to me, either; the ‘90s Gamera series used it, especially in the final film of the trilogy, Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris, though they only had Genbu and Suzaku involved. (Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi equated Gamera and Genbu too, for that matter.)

So, why did I mention LEGO Batman in the title?

***SPOILERS AFTER THE CUT***



Because LEGO Batman has to resort to a proxy kaiju as well.

If you’ve seen the film or read most of the reviews, then you know that the Joker ditches Batman’s awesome rogues gallery to team up with a bunch of inter-franchise villains: the Daleks, King Kong, Sauron, Voldemort, the Wicked Witch of the West, and… the Kraken from Clash of the Titans.

The Kraken?!

I love Clash of the Titans (I even like the remake), but the Kraken certainly isn’t a big-name villain. It’s certainly not such a big deal that it should be (accidentally) taking out Sauron, even if it is spitting blue fireballs.

Blue fireballs?

The Kraken has never spit fire.

Director Chris McKay has said in interviews that he needed “an army of lawyers” to secure the rights to all of the characters he wanted to include in the film, but he obviously wasn’t able to get the rights to one of them. I’m guessing that’s because Legendary Entertainment said Godzilla’s a hero, not a villain. After all, he was in their 2014 film.

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