Aug 6, 2016
"Shin Godzilla," the latest film in the Godzilla franchise, features the series' largest-ever Godzilla, at 118.5 meters tall.
In the movie, which opened in cinemas last week, Godzilla launches an assault on Japan with a ferociousness that surpasses that of the past films in the series. The governments of Japan and the United States face off against each other over how to stop the gigantic creature.
Hiroki Hasegawa and Satomi Ishihara play key persons in both governments.
"Shin Godzilla" is the 29th Godzilla film produced in this country. Of the past films in the series, both Hasegawa and Ishihara said the one that had the biggest impact on them was the first "Godzilla" (1954).
"I saw the film on video when I was a child and found it really scary," Hasegawa said. "It also taught me how interesting Japanese films are."
The first Godzilla was born as a result of a hydrogen bomb test.
"I think it required a lot of courage to produce such a film at that time," Ishihara said. "I also think it's incredible that the same character has been the central feature of films for more than 60 years."
After the first film, Godzilla became best known for its onscreen battles against Mothra, King Ghidorah and other kaiju monsters. But the new film does not follow up on the stories or the settings of the past Godzilla films.
Hideaki Anno, famed as the director of the "Neon Genesis Evangelion" anime series, led the "Shin Godzilla" production team. He also wrote the script, creating a completely new story.
"I felt the pressure of making a Godzilla movie," Ishihara said. "But Mr. Anno's script is fantastic. It motivated me to not get eclipsed by it during the shoot."
Anno was particularly committed to producing Godzilla with only computer-generated imagery.
Hasegawa said he was amazed at the result.
"It's computer-generated, so when I was acting, I could only imagine Godzilla's size," he said. "When I saw the finished scenes [complete with Godzilla], I was shocked to see how different my imagination and Anno's creativity were."
The story is set in Japan, where panic ensues in the face of Godzilla's onslaught. Hasegawa plays Yaguchi, the deputy chief cabinet secretary, who disagrees with the government's policy of demanding that all requests made to the government be submitted in writing. Refusing to follow precedent, Yaguchi leads the frontline personnel in the battle against Godzilla.
"Yaguchi is a classic Japanese hero," Hasegawa said. "He shows leadership within an organisation and helps strengthen solidarity. He eventually becomes someone who symbolizes the hope of Japan's future."
The character Kayoco Anne Patterson, played by Ishihara, is a special envoy of the US president and becomes Yaguchi's partner in the story.
Kayoco, whose grandmother is Japanese, is a daughter of a US senator.
"Her father has power, so she's a very confident person," Ishihara said. "But Yaguchi's words make her aware of her Japanese roots. It's also the story of how she develops as a person."
The title "Shin Godzilla" apparently embraces various meanings. "Shin" in the title is written in katakana and can be taken to mean different things. "'Shin' can mean 'new,' 'god' or 'true.' All these elements are included [in the film]," Hasegawa said. "I guess this film can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the person who watches it."
Ishihara said she wanted to add one more meaning, "shin" from the word "shinjiru" (to believe), to the other options.
"While playing my role, there were times when I recalled the devastation after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011," she said. "There are issues we shouldn't avoid looking at, such as nuclear power plants and atomic bombs. I thought I must learn what to believe, albeit with a certain degree of skepticism. Godzilla has helped me mature a great deal."