Sunday, July 17, 2011

All the best of Japan




My week's vacation came to a spectacular finish yesterday as I visited G-Fest with my brother Spike, my nephew Xander, and my best friend Armando.  
What is G-Fest?  You think it's a festival of rappers as in "what up, G?"  Oh you heathens.  It is a convention of Godzilla fans.  No, it's more than that.  It is a gathering of those who wish to celebrate all that is great about Japanese science fiction, whether they be four years old or 94 or whatever age.  Xander is a four year-old.  The entire visit to the Crowne Plaza in Rosemont, Illinois was worth it for no other reason than to see his little face as he walked into the dealer's room, amazed at all of the Japanese giant monster toys for sale.  Here's a few other highlights:

-Caught the very end of a presentation on Godzilla sculpting and modeling by Hiroshi Sagae.  While unfamiliar with Sagae San, I couldn't help but be impressed when learning that he is a resident of Fukushima, one of the cities of Japan that was worst hit by the tsunami/nuclear meltdown combo of last spring.  He spoke openly about how his sculpting work kept him focused and sane.  Amazing what a driving passion can do.

-Listened to a panel on Japanese superheroes.  I'm talking the best science fiction heroes that Japan has to offer: Ultraman, Starman, Kamen Rider, Infra-Man, Spectreman, the robots from Space Giants, and many others, including a mummy from Atlantis that awakens in the future.  Awesome!

-Sean Rhoads presented his Masters thesis in East Asian Studies on Godzilla vs. Hedorah, or as you might possibly be more familiar with...Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.  Yeah, yeah, go ahead and laugh.  I appreciated Mr. Rhoads' as a scholar and as someone who is trying to take a subject matter that is entertaining and exploring the serious underlying subtext that makes the film both enjoyable and socially relevant.

-Got to watch Terror From Beneath the Sea with Spike and Xanderzilla in the movie room.  Oh what a triumph that film is!  We had too much fun watching it.  I think that Spike has a brilliant idea in that we should rip it off into James Bond vs. Hugo Chavez And His Evil Undersea World.  There were many good films (well, "good" as in the fun, b-movie sense) being shown throughout the weekend.  Spike and Xander even got to see Gamera vs. Giras.

-Picked up a DVD copy of Samurai Bikini Squad.  With a title like that, did you really think I could say no?

-Marveled as I watched a crew of dedicated amateur filmmakers create their own kaiju ("monster" in Japanese) film in one conference room of the hotel.  They built their own model city and used professional gear to film rubbery giant monsters slugging it out over the urban expanse.  They even had a hydraulic lift for their own Ghidorah-styled monster.  Make fun if you wish but as someone who has directed their own digital films, I can tell you this took a hell of a lot of work.  My hat's off to the crew. 

Then we left.  Had to take little four year-old Xanderzilla to get something to eat and a place to crash.  We capped off the night by watching Toho's classic Destroy All Monsters and my new copy of Infra-Man at my place.  I can't deny that there is a part of me who really wants to stay over for the whole weekend next year.  I mean, those geek hotel room parties have got to be off the hook, y'all!  If nothing else, the G-Fest organizers arranged things so that the hotel's in-house TV channel showed nothing but Japanese science fiction all weekend long.  While I might not be the most passionate Godzilla fan around, this just sounds like a blissful escape from my gruesome reality.  The more of that I can get, the healthier I believe I will be.

I love you, Japan.  Let's never fight again.





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