- Godzilla will rule at KU during a July 19 and 20 festival
that includes a free showing of the original 1954 Japanese film,
a panel discussion and an exhibit.
"Godzilla Takes Kansas!" is the theme for the special
events exploring Godzilla as a cultural icon of Japan and the
U.S. The festival includes:
- "Godzilla," a free screening of the original 1954
film at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 19, at Liberty Hall, 642 Massachusetts
St. Toho Company Inc. in Japan is permitting the festival sponsor,
KU's Center for East Asian Studies,to show the film, which was
recently restored and includes new subtitles;
- "Understanding Godzilla," a panel discussion at 7:30
p.m. Thursday, July 20, in Smith Hall auditorium. Panelists will
be William Tsutsui, associate professor of history; James Gunn,
director of KU's Science Fiction Writing Institute, and Gray
Ginther, a 1999 KU graduate whose master's thesis explores the
meaning of Godzilla;
- "Godzilla and Japanese Popular Culture," an exhibit
of Godzilla artifacts, movie memorabilia and books, July 15 to
Aug. 15 in the main lobby of Watson Library. The display will
include materials from the KU libraries, toys and posters from
Tsutsui's personal collection, and Ginther's master's thesis
Toho Studios is releasing a new film version of Godzilla this
year, Tsutsui said. Toho is showing the reprinted 1954 film in
a few U.S. cities, including Los Angeles and Lawrence.
The concept for a Godzilla festival grew out of a discussion
of Japanese popular culture between Tsutsui, acting director
of the Center for East Asian Studies, and Michiko Ito, librarian
for East Asian studies.
"We discovered we shared a mutual interest in Godzilla,"
Tsutsui said. Tsutsui had watched the film as a youngster in
his native United States. Ito, born in Japan, had no interest
in the film until she was a young adult. "I thought of it
as a kids' movie until I read reviews relating it to themes of
anti-nuclear hysteria and anti-war emotion in Japan"
Ito, who learned about World War II as part of Japan's history,
said that when she saw the scenes of crowds running in terror
in the original Godzilla film, she imagined those scenes were
similar to what the Japanese experienced during U.S. air raids
as they ran for shelter.
Often the anti-American themes of the many Godzilla films that
followed the 1954 original were edited out of the versions shown
in the United States, Tsutsui said.
In the 46 years since the first film was made, Godzilla has taken
on more than one meaning, Tsutsui said. "In part, Godzilla
is symbolic of a Japanese tradition of folktales and myths about
'oni' or demons that can be both benevolent and menacing."
Tsutsui has been collecting Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese) memorabilia
- particularly toys and film posters - since he was about 11
years old, the same year he made his first visit to Japan. His
collection has grown as a result of his students, particularly
those studying in Japan, who find more Godzilla memorabilia.
His latest addition? A 15-inch tall roaring toy replica of the
new Godzilla in the upcoming 2000 Toho film. Tsutsui compared
the new toy to a much earlier toy version of Godzilla. For the
year 2000, Godzilla sports bigger and more menancing purple tinged
dorsal fins than the 1950s' version.