Tag Archives: Japan

Ian Fleming, Thrilling Cities, & the reluctant traveller

TRAVEL WRITING STEMS from a variety of motives – to inform, to amuse, to educate, to show off or to make a bit of money. But sometimes the best travel writing comes from writers who don’t even want to be there in the first place.

That was the case for Ian Fleming in 1959, when The Sunday Times all but forced Fleming to make a several-weeks’ trip around Asia and then on to the United States via Hawaii. Despite Fleming admitting himself to be “the world’s worst sightseer”, who “had often advocated the provision of roller-skates at the doors of museums and art galleries”, the trip went ahead and resulted in a series of articles for the paper, one for each city visited; these articles were later compiled to form one of Fleming’s few non-James Bond books, Thrilling Cities.

But Bond aficionados will find much that is familiar; not only the glamour, but the seediness, the snobbery, the murky threat of violence, the constant boozing and the malaise of the novels can all be easily recognised throughout the travels recorded here. The first city visited is Hong Kong, where Fleming’s descriptions are enjoyable both for what has changed – “when the remaining forty years of our lease of the mainland territory expire, I see no reason why a reduced population should not retreat to the islands and the original territory which we hold in perpetuity” – and for what is still eminently recognisable: “the streets of Hong Kong are evidence that neon lighting need not be hideous, and the crowded Chinese ideograms in pale violet and pink and green with a plentiful use of white are entrancing not only for their colours but also because one does not know what drab messages and exhortations they spell out”. While staying in Hong Kong, Fleming also makes a jaunt to Macau, where he latches on to stories about the gold-smuggling trade, with “the internal Geiger-counter of a writer of thrillers ticking furiously”, before making his way on to Tokyo.

“I hate, small, finicky, breakable things, and I am slightly over six feet tall”, complains Fleming, who has had reservations about Japan from the beginning: “Before and during the war they had been bad enemies and many of my friends had suffered at their hands.” But in his short three days there, Fleming is won over both by his companions – Orientalised Australian Dick Hughes and Japanese “Tiger” Saito – and by the eccentricity and charm of Japanese culture. Despite feeling clumsy, awkward, and out of place, a good-humoured, “when in Rome” attitude soon overtakes him, and in a brief three days he manages to take in a meeting with Somerset Maugham, a Judo demonstration, a Japanese bath, a visit with a soothsayer, and an evening with geishas, all sake-soaked and never in violation of his anti-itinerary: “no politicians, museums, temples, Imperial palaces or Noh plays, let alone tea ceremonies.” The judo, bath, geishas, and Maugham are uniformly delightful, but the soothsayer is rather a wash, predicting Fleming will live to eighty, return to Japan, and is about to enjoy a streak of good luck. The latter cheers him, his companions having dispensed grave warnings to him against his flight out of Tokyo: flying on Friday the 13th is bad enough but, going Eastward to Hawaii, he will cross the dateline and experience two Friday the 13ths in a row.

As with the soothsayer’s other predictions, the streak of good luck is nonsense. The flight gets off to a bad start, rattled by Typhoon Emma, but Fleming doesn’t mind. His devil-may-care alter ego Bond actually prefers to fly on the 13th, he reminds us: “There are practically no passengers and it’s more comfortable and you get better service.” The comfort, the service, and the drinks see him asleep by midnight. After four hours, the voice of the captain awakes him: “There has been an explosion in number three engine and a fire […] I have no hydraulic pressure.” Luckily, this happens to be the most unflappable airline pilot in the world: “We have altered course for Wake Island where I shall carry out a no-flap landing at an unusual altitude and faster than is the custom […] I have made many three-engine landings and also many without hydraulic pressure, so – see you on the ground!”

In their own day, most of the appeal of the Bond novels and, by extension, Thrilling Cities, was aspirational; the diabolical villains and lurid exploits were just conventional story-building elements. Air travel alone was a thrilling and romantic experience, beyond the means of most, never mind staying in the best hotels, playing in the best casinos, wearing the finest suits, drinking the finest wine, eating the best caviar – the novels work as a sort of lifestyle porn, and Thrilling Cities, lacking the villains and the exploits, still works on the same level. Today, air travel, exotic places, skiing, fine dining and cocktails are no longer unobtainable for the average person, but that aspirational element remains; rather than vicariously living like an international playboy, today’s reader instead longs for a time when boarding an aeroplane was an adventure rather than a chore.

With a USAF rescue-plane and two Navy craft deployed, the captain breezily makes his landing (“To lighten the load, I am about to dump fuel, so there will be no smoking please.”) and Fleming’s en route to Honolulu, where his spirits remain high despite his failure to take to surfing, his distaste for plinking ukulele music and his dismay at hordes of elderly American tourists.

Fleming’s thriller-writer senses kick in once again in Los Angeles as he discusses the Mafia with Police Captain Hamilton, and his gambling connoisseurism in Las Vegas, providing a quick summary of how to gamble sensibly that is the level-headed antithesis of Mr. Bond’s high-stakes play. Speaking of Bond, Fleming was so wearied and miserable by the time he reached New York (via Chicago) that, as an apology for his rubbishing of the city, American readers were offered a humorous short-story about him. “007 in New York” isn’t much of a thriller but its throwaway nature is precisely what makes it enjoyable, with a rare and light-hearted ending in which Bond fails his mission – plus, there’s a recipe for “scrambled eggs James Bond”.

Fleming’s trip was so successful that, having barely finished submitting his articles, Fleming found himself being asked by the paper to make another trip. The Sunday Times had Latin America in mind, suggesting the appropriately thrilling Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Havana, but an already-weary Fleming was only willing to go as far away as Europe, making most of the trip in his own car and finding many of his destinations boring or repellent.

First on the agenda was Hamburg, where Fleming – often caricatured as an old Tory, but really more of a libertarian – briefly praises the sex industry (“normal heterosexual ‘vice’ is permitted to exist in appropriate ‘reservations’ and on condition that it remains open and light-hearted. How very different from the prudish and hypocritical manner in which we so disgracefully mismanage these things in England!”) before moving on to Berlin where he is oppressed by Modernist architecture, Cold War tensions and the spectre of Hitler.

In “The Living Daylights”, James Bond thinks of Berlin as “a glum, inimical city dry varnished on the Western side with a brittle veneer of gimcrack polish, rather like the chromium trim on American motor-cars”. If anything his creator is even harsher, but one wonders whether it’s the ghastliness of the city itself or the ghastliness of his mood that’s to blame. Fleming was periodically weighed down by a kind of directionless, spiteful ennui, which often fired his best writing – Casino Royale, From Russia, with Love, “The Living Daylights”, “Octopussy”. Reading his novels in sequence, one is bewildered by the mood swings between, for instance, From Russia, with Love, the cynical book in which Fleming comes closest to Le Carré, and actually kills 007 at the end (obviously, it didn’t stick), and its follow-up, the dizzyingly exuberant Doctor No. Today, he’d probably be called bipolar.

Even so, Fleming takes out some frustrations in a still-thrilling description of buzzing down the Autobahns, which takes up a good third of the chapter and makes the arrival to pleasant, dull Vienna rather an anti-climax, as is Geneva (“to include Geneva among the thrilling cities of Europe must seem to most people quixotic”). Italy is a bright spot: tracking down retired gangster Lucky Luciano in Naples, and Gracie Fields in Capri, before noting down an amusing bit of bother in Pompeii when a French tourist’s wife is refused entry to the Lupanar, where “childish pictures […] show you how to make love – if you were the right shape and extremely athletic”. The unimpressed Frenchman protests, “Pah! […] You think I have come a thousand miles from Paris to see that? Why, I was doing it myself when I was sixteen! […] These stupid Romans had no idea how to make love. And you mean to say you won’t let my wife see this nonsense!”. And after a discourse on how ugly and dull lava is, our author makes his way to Monte Carlo, where an amusing encounter with a sarcastic English girl and a visit to Jacques Cousteau both prove so restorative to the author’s spirits that he ends up closing the book with an incongruous “What fun it all was! What fun ‘abroad’ will always be!”

Still, travel at the best of times tends to take it out of us, but in another six weeks, six months, or a year we find ourselves looking back on our adventures with nothing but fondness, and presumably it was so for Fleming too, who probably expected to make a third trip once he’d recuperated sufficiently. Sadly, a heart attack at 56 meant that not only would there be no third trip, there’d be no more of his Bond novels either. Given how many of his experiences and impressions from Tokyo made their way directly into You Only Live Twice, it’s hard not to wonder what sort of adventures he was planning for Bond in Macau, Honolulu, or Naples. Still, the adventures recorded here provide an appropriately thrilling little volume which, if it is too dated to be of much value as a guidebook, is so of its time as to be indispensable as social history, and should be treasured and re-read as the witty, crotchety, yet always endearing record of a reluctant traveller.

Ian Fleming Author the creator of James Bond 1963

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Hideo Nakata, Takashi Shimizu, & the Golden Age of J-Horror

sadako

I might not have mentioned, but I was recently at FrightFest, which is always the highlight of the year for me. We’d been promised a mysterious new Adam Wingard picture entitled The Woods, which was set to be the very latest thing in scaring audiences’ pants off. Well, as it turned out, it wasn’t really The Woods at all, but rather a new sequel to The Blair Witch Project. At the same time, it turned out we weren’t really getting to see it at all, but THEN it turned out that instead we were getting Sadako vs. Kayako, i.e. The Ring vs. The Grudge. For me, that was a good result I’d been eagerly awaiting Sadako vs. Kayako since its announcement, & nothing could dampen that enthusiasm.

As it turned out, the picture was only OK, offering a few interesting ideas but undermining itself with tongue-in-cheek humour & never really reaching the nightmare pitch achieved in the best of its predecessors (Ringu, Ju-On: The Curse, Ju-On: The Grudge, The Ring). Perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising. Those films all came out within a remarkably short period of time a Golden Age for what was called J-Horror.

J-Horror is not simply any horror that comes out of Japan, but in order to qualify it does have to be Japanese. The films from J-Horror’s Golden Age favoured vengeful spirits, usually girls in white dresses with stringy black hair. The approach to horror, while often incorporating a hefty dose of surrealism, was subtle too, usually avoiding gore, or even any specific depictions of harm, in favour of maddeningly relentless pursuits. They were also heavily reliant on intelligent use of the frame, hiding characters in background shadows or just out of shot. Naturally, this meant the films required talented directors making them work, which is exactly what they got: Hideo Nakata helmed Ringu, Ringu 2 & The Ring Two, leaving other, less talented directors to follow him on pictures such as Ringu‘s discredited sequel Rasen, the surprisingly effective prequel film Ringu 0: Birthday, & the tacky, CGI-filled later revivals Sadako 3D & Sadako 2 3D. Hideo Nakata’s relationship to Ju-On is similar; the series had its origins in the shorts “Katasumi” & “4444444444” released in the anthology Gakkô no kaidan G. Nakata expanded around them with Ju-On: The Curse & Ju-On: The Curse 2, before giving the series its first reboot with Ju-On: The Grudge, which earned its own sequel in Ju-On: The Grudge 2. Following the success of Ringu‘s even better US remake The Ring, lavishly staged by later Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski, Ju-On: The Grudge received a similar US treatment, yet again directed by Shimizu, who would also stay on for The Grudge 2 before abandoning both the Japanese & American iterations of his franchise. The Grudge 3 went straight to home video, but the American series continues to hold out hope, with a reboot reportedly in the works. In Japan, the series never quite fell out of fashion, & the spin-off films Ju-On: White Ghost, which was pretty good, & Ju-On: Black Ghost, which was less so, marked the series’ tenth anniversary before yet another reboot in Ju-On: The Beginning of the End, whose sequel was Ju-On: The Final Curse. Sadako vs. Kayako, for those who are interested, reboots both series yet again in order to incorporate some minor changes to the mythos.

The US pictures coming out at this time that weren’t remakes of Japanese pictures ended up looking like they might as well be, while the cinemas of China & Korea both responded to the horror waves coming from Japan. A neighbouring, yet different, genre enjoying a little Golden Age of its own at the same time was Asian extreme, best represented by Korean Park Chan-Wook & Japanese Takashi Miike, while the tactics of J-horror fed into, & from, other media, such as the horror manga of Junji Ito, the novels of Kōji Suzuki, or the many survival horror videogames released in the same period.

Nakata & Shimizu made some other excellent horrors; Nakata delivered his masterpiece in Dark Water, which also had a US remake, while Nakata delivered the Junji Ito adaptation Tomie: Rebirth, the Lovecraftian Marebito, The Shock Labyrinth, & Tormented. But other directors were active, too; if you want to easily keep track of them, why not try the J-Horror Theater imprint? It gathered six of J-Horror’s leading talents to deliver one picture each; Nakata & Shimizu pitched in with Kaidan & Reincarnation respectively, while the other pictures were Infection (from Masayuki Ochiai of Parasite Eve, Saimin, Shutter, & Kotodama – Spiritual Curse before taking over for Shimizu on the Ju-On franchise); Premonition (from Tsuruta Norio of Ringu 0: Birthday & Kakashi, which was based on a Junji Ito manga); Retribution (from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, best-known for Pulse); & finally Kyōfu (from Ringu screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi). The J-Horror Theater series had mostly died off by its later entries, however, as had the brief, incredibly terrifying success of the genre. Sometimes all it takes to create a Golden Age is one or two great talents. Or maybe there was just something in the water in the late-90s.

Marvel, DC, & 1.5-horse races

Solid & Liquid Snake

DID ANYONE SEE Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice? I’m just asking. Personally I didn’t bother; it wasn’t that I didn’t care, it just sort of passed me by. The figures suggest that’s probably the case for a lot of people out there, since the film did a passable, but disappointing, $850m & received damning reviews across the board. Given it was meant to launch a mega-expanded-universe-cinematic-juggernaut-crossover franchise (as was 2013’s uninspiring, but successful, Man of Steel), this is bad news for DC. Once upon a time, they could open massive comic-book movies like 1978’s Superman (plus four sequels), 1989’s Batman (plus three sequels), & 2005’s Batman Begins (plus two sequels & a pretty good animated spinoff), while in roughly the same timeframe, Marvel was producing unwatchable shit almost exclusively, which is funny since in terms of sales Marvel’s always had a competitive edge against the older, more conservative DC. In terms of popular iconography, DC’s always had the upper hand with their Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman trinity, though the depth & variety of Marvel characters is more impressive, & outside of that trinity DC’s never really managed to manage another household name, where Marvel has several (Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, The Mighty Thor, the X-Men & especially Wolverine plus, of late, Iron Man). Plus, in recent years Marvel have launched hugely successful films even when based on their obscurer characters. Similar attempts by DC have resulted in nothing but flops. Given all of this cinematic kerfuffle, plus DC’s flagging readership since the New 52 reboot, they’d be wise to watch out, lest they surrender the greater market share to Marvel after sixty-odd competitive years, making things less of a two-horse race & more of a 1.5-horse race.

1.5-horse races are surprisingly common; if anything, they may actually be more common than true two-horse races. It’s where one company has a clear lead, perhaps more than 50% of the market share, & their next competitor is almost as visible, almost as famous, almost as acclaimed, sells almost as well.

In fast food, there’s McDonald’s vs. Burger King. In traditional animation, there’s Disney vs. Warner Bros. (appropriate, given Disney owns Marvel & WB, DC); in CG animation there’s Disney Pixar vs. DreamWorks Animation. In cola, there’s Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi; in orange soda, there’s Fanta vs. Tango (Tango is sold in the UK by Britvic, who distribute fellow 2nd-bester Pepsi); in lemonade, there’s Sprite vs. 7Up (again, Sprite is Coca-Cola’s horse; 7Up, PepsiCo’s). In computers, there’s Microsoft vs. Apple. In trainers, there’s Nike vs. Reebok, & there’s Adidas vs. Puma. In girls’ dolls, there’s Barbie vs. Cindy. In American cars, there’s Ford vs. General Motors. In Italian sports cars, there’s Ferrari vs. Lamborghini. In music, there’s The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols vs. The Clash, Oasis vs. Blur, Madonna vs. Cyndi Lauper, Michael Jackson vs. Prince, & 2Pac vs. The Notorious B.I.G.. In American inventing, there used to be Thomas Edison vs. Nikola Tesla. Many football rivalries also work the same way: Manchester United vs. Manchester City, Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool vs. Everton, West Ham vs. Millwall,  Norwich vs. Ipswich, Cardiff vs. Swansea, & Crystal Palace vs. Brighton and Hove Albion. Celtic vs. Rangers has become this of late, after Rangers’ bankruptcy/buying-out saga. No doubt other sports have their own examples too. This can even extend to rivalries between cities, for which many of the football rivalries spill out into a larger rivalry. It can even happen with countries: look at Australia vs. New Zealand, Japan vs. South Korea, or for a less friendly example, South Korea vs. North Korea.

Even the Cold War, when you really think about it, resolves itself as another of these 1.5-horse races, with the Soviet Union stretching itself too thin in trying to remain competitive with the United States. But, as you can see from perusing the list above, it’s rare for one side to ever get enough of an upper hand to really drive its rivals into the ground, so both sides keep hanging on while an indifferent public tends just to go for the brand they prefer.

Tough Mudder, the avant-garde, & the popularity of rollercoasters

Basic RGB

IF YOU LIVE near where I live, then around about now’s the right time to register for Tough Mudder Scotland, a 10-mile obstacle course involving ice, icy water, fire, electric shocks, long falls, an outside possibility of death, & of course, much mud. I don’t know, maybe that appeals to you. Christ knows it doesn’t appeal to me, but then I’m a bookish, waifish intellectual. They sew me into my skinny jeans before I leave the house (for lectures only!) & I come straight back, draw the curtains, & stay at home thinking about life & adventure & the great outdoors & so forth, without ever actually experiencing it. I’m like Wordsworth in that respect.

But obviously Tough Mudder does appeal to some, because over one million people worldwide have participated, & the event continues to grow. Three of my friends have done it. I can sort of understand the appeal. It’s essentially an egotistical thing, proving to oneself that one is indeed the best, the toughest, the fittest. It’s like graduating the SAS’ notoriously difficult training, except without then being obliged to make oneself useful by fighting for the country. That’s why, whereas the SAS would pay you, you have to pay Tough Mudder for their services, because what they’re letting you do is play special forces, but in basically safe conditions. Sure, I mentioned further up that there’s been one death, but out of one million participants, that means Tough Mudder is 99.9999% safe, which makes it safer than ecstasy, horseriding, or safe sex. & in that sense, Tough Mudder strikes me as a weirdly privileged phenomenon, a notion possibly borne out by a look over the countries in which the company operates: the United States, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, & Mexico. At this rate, we could just replace the Human Development Index with a measure of the presence or non-presence of Tough Mudder.

Nick Hornby wrote a typically sensible essay in his nonfiction collection 31 Songs, discussing Suicide’s 10-minute industrial nightmare, “Frankie Teardrop”. Unfortunately, I can only link to the first few pages of the essay here, but the gist of it is that Hornby considers the critical phenomenon of undue praise often going to experimental, unsettling, challenging works simply by virtue of their being experimental, unsettling or challenging, deciding that it is, by & large, the product of a complacency borne of peace & prosperity; that a returning WWI veteran probably wouldn’t have much of a wish to listen to “Frankie Teardrop”, a song which one reviewer compares to being shot in the head.

Nick Hornby makes a very good point. But it was also his description of “Frankie Teardrop” as his most disturbing sonic experience which gave me a desire to listen to it; in the same essay, Hornby expresses a preference for a Teenage Fanclub song on the basis that it’s catchy & likeable, which is fair enough, but to this day hasn’t been a strong enough recommendation for me to seek it out. I myself have recommended to friends Scott Walker’s dank, claustrophobic Tilt & his violent, ugly The Drift essentially on the basis of how unpleasant they are. Teenagers often try to outdo each other on who can stand the most violent films, the obscenest pornography, or the heaviest music. But I think there’s something more than that novelty value going on, because I still enjoy Suicide, Scott Walker & indeed noise music, which is as far as I can imagine the apotheosis of heavy, because it’s nothing but feedback. I’m not trying to boast there; & when I do listen to noise, it’s with something of an ironic distance, because I do recognise the absurdity of the sort of aural race to the bottom which produced it: the fuckit-ism of “Just how far can we push this? Beyond the point of pleasantness? Hopefully!”. & as teenaged as it seems, there’s a huge fascination with boundarypushing, even in mature, “serious” fields such as, say, the entirety of modernist literature. Or experimental film. Or most visual art since the Second World War.

It might be a touch too easy to chalk all this up to our pampered society. After all, times of war have produced plenty of war literature & art, & times of hardship or horror don’t always lead to fluffy escapism becoming more appealing. Cultural historians have often blamed the optimism of Tin Pan Alley on the harsh realities of the Depression; but then, the same critics would also argue that the aftermath of 9/11 put the kibosh, temporarily, on the popularity of films like Godzilla or Independence Day, in which the destruction of New York is just the coolest thing – that escapism was common before 9/11, & more complex, challenged moralities more popular afterwards*. Tough Mudder, difficult avant-garde art, &, indeed, horror films, might all be appealing to one unchanging part of the human psyche which just longs for “danger”, in flavours that vary from indivual to individual. & I don’t think wider sociopolitical considerations have ever made much of an impact on the popularity of rollercoasters, which are, I think, probably the most direct expression of this sort of fascination.

*As, for instance, with the proliferation of dark, tortured superheroes in films like The Dark Knight, though it must be pointed out that the cinematic trend began a little before 9/11, with Blade (1998), X-Men (2000), & Spider-Man (2002, but completed earlier. Posters & trailers for the film featured WTC prominently).

Godzilla, Akira, & inter-national concordance

daigo fukuryu maru

IN MAY OF 2014, Legendary Pictures’ American Godzilla film will make its début, as announced in this incredibly exciting trailer. There are good signs all around: Legendary’s last film was Pacific Rim, which essentially inaugurated the American kaiju genre. It could be a prelude to Godzilla 2014. Aside from that, the cast includes Bryan Cranston, Juliette Binoche, & Ken Watanabe, who between them have pretty immaculate taste.

There’s just one concern I have about the upcoming film – & I’m hoping it proves to be unfounded. Try comparing the teaser trailers for the 1998 & 2014 American Godzillas. See, the 1998 American version pretty much acknowledges itself as a bullshit cash-in on The Lost World: Jurassic Park, whereas the 2014 film’s teaser goes for something much classier, more dramatic: that chilling Oppenheimer quotation, over little more than silence & the aftermath of destruction. I like the teaser trailer more than the full trailer because it seems to mean more. The original 1954 film, just nine years after the devastation of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, & the same year as American nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll, presented audiences with a giant, radioactive monster, seemingly supernatural in its wrath & raw destructive power. The film offers little of the expected awesomeness: no monsters fighting monsters, no slow-motion building collapses or sexy camera angles. A mother shields her children, trying to prepare them for death. A burns ward is overrun with victims. A scientist commits suicide, unable to live with his guilt. It often feels more like The Battleship Potemkin than King Kong. It goes beyond the metaphorical into the realm of the purely figurative: Godzilla is not a standin for the atomic bomb, he is the collective fear & guilt & impotence of the entire country given monstrous physical form.

It’s difficult to see how this will translate for American audiences. It was one of the reasons I was disappointed to hear about the proposed American remake of Akira, another film that gives physical form to concerns uniquely a part of the Japanese psyche (the other reason was because the script was hilariously Frankensteined together from seemingly every cliché going), & relieved when it seemed to sink into development Hell. & yet, for some reason I have hope for an American Godzilla. Perhaps it’s simply the Oppenheimer quotation in the teaser – the suggestion of an American mirror image of a Japanese nightmare: reciprocating the ’54 film’s terror with nuclear guilt. &, I suppose, Godzilla is sufficiently an international icon that he needn’t stand solely for the A-bomb: in the later Toho films, he was figured increasingly as a Japanese national icon, like a Captain America or a James Bond; the 70s & 80s saw a tendency to emphasise environmental concerns; & Gareth Edwards, director of the new film, has referenced 9/11, natural disasters, & divine vengeance as parallels for what he wants to achieve.

There’s probably no sense in which Godzilla can ever become naturalised as an American cultural symbol. But I don’t think we’d want him to. Godzilla is Hiroshima, & Hiroshima is Japan’s national-cultural nightmare. Other nations have their own; for the US it’s probably 9/11. But I don’t want to see a Godzilla in which Godzilla is a standin for terrorists, it feels cheap to me, & boring*. & in any case, is there really any sense in which 9/11 is equivalent to Hiroshima? If there is, it can only be described in the very broadest terms. Certainly, the two events do not match up closely enough that a cultural symbol for one can be transferred across to the other intact. The bestcase scenario would be for the 2014 film not to attempt to Americanise Godzilla, but rather to achieve a powerful cultural frisson out of the monster’s roots in Japanese nuclear horror.

*It’s exactly what the American Akira script attempted, incidentally.