Today’s movie marks the second entry into the Hesei era of Gamera: 1996’s Gamera 2: Attack of Legion.
Gamera 2: Attack of Legion was written once again by Kazunori Itô, who also penned Ghost in the Shell, .hack//SIGN, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.
Likewise, director Shûsuke Kaneko (Death Note, Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Out Attack) returns from Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, and would stay with the franchise through Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.
The cinematography on Gamera 2 was provided solely by Junichi Tozawa, who shared shooting duties on Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. As with the director and writer, he would return for Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris.
The editor for the film was once again Shizuo Arakawa, who cut Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, but would not return for the third film in the Heisei series.
The producing team for Gamera 2 included Yasuyoshi Tokuma (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke), Tsutomu Tsuchikawa (Dead or Alive, The City of Lost Souls), and newcomer Naoki Sato (Gamera 3, One Missed Call, Three…Extremes).
The effects team for Gamera 2 included Shin’ichi Fushima (Godzilla Against Mechgodzilla, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), Tomo’o Haraguchi (Gamera, Air Doll), Shinji Higuchi (Gamera, Gamera 3, Attack on Titan), Toshio Miike (Godzilla: Final Wars, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.), Makoto Kamiya (Godzilla vs. Biollante), and Shin’ichi Wakasa (Godzilla 2000, Godzilla vs. Destroyah, Rebirth of Mothra).
The reception to Gamera 2: Attack of Legion managed to exceed the acclaim of the well-regarded previous movie: it currently holds an 84% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes alongside an IMDb rating of 7.3.
Legion is an interesting sort of villain, and provides a unique challenge for Gamera. Its parasitic nature reminded me a bit of one of the Showa Gamera villains: Jiger. However, Attack of Legion goes in a far less cartoon-y direction than Gamera vs. Jiger. The first fight between Gamera and Legion was particularly interesting because of the size difference between the monsters, but a mother entity is eventually introduced that is closer to Gamera’s weight class. I actually was a little disappointed in this, because the idea of a colony of small organisms acting as a villain seems way more interesting and unique to me. In any case, the central Legion monster still looks fantastic, combining insect-like attributed with a reptilian body and metallic trim. It looked to me like a monster on the same level with Toho’s Gigan: a monster that is decidedly other-worldly in appearance.
Something that I specifically noticed about Gamera 2 is that the effects look really good, particularly the pyrotechnics and miniatures. The classic style is retained, but none of the destruction comes off as silly: the way things are shot keep the carnage grounded and generally realistic.
Interestingly, Gamera is out of commission for a significant portion of the second act of Attack of Legion, which again echoes Gamera vs. Jiger. However, instead of a goofy anatomical adventure saving the day, Gamera’s human connection is sacrificed to wake him up from his coma, which ends the story on an ominous, downbeat note.
That said, the ending departure of Legion is a bit silly. Essentially, Gamera shoots a giant blast out of his chest with the help of…Earth energy? Something like that? Basically, the effect is like a spirit bomb from Dragonball, but is never explained further.
In spite of a few minor complaints, this is a pretty fun kaiju showcase, and manages to build and improve on the previous movie without losing any connections to the story. I wouldn’t recommend watching it without seeing Guardian of the Universe first, but I think it is definitely worth giving a watch.