Back on April 1st, Toho Film Studios announced that production was underway on a brand-new Japanese Godzilla film. This news alone would be enough to cause a stir among G-fans around the world; but nothing could top the reveal of the two men behind the new production.
Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi.
To anyone familiar with these names, having them even tangentially connected to a new Godzilla film would be amazing. To have them working together as co-director’s on the film is as existentially significant to a Godzilla fan as it would be to personally witness the big bang. Well, to me, at least.
Now, for those who have no idea who these two people are, let me explain.
Hideaki Anno has been a giant in the Japanese animation industry for decades. His most well-known work is as director and screenwriter of Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995) and its more recent incarnation in the Rebuild of Evangelion film series (or Evangelion: New Movie Edition). Anno has also directed many other notable works, such as Gunbuster (1988), Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water (1990), and several live-action projects such as Cutie Honey (2004) and Love & Pop (1998). Anno began as an animator and worked on the key God Warrior sequence for Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984). Anno also gave his voice to the lead character of Miyazaki’s 2013 film, The Wind Rises.
Anno has been very outspoken of the importance of animation and Tokusatsu (Japanese special effects films or television programs) in his life and has countless references to his favorite stories in many of his own works.
Shinji Higuchi is a talented artist who was one of the founding members of studio Gainax along with Hideaki Anno. Higuchi served as a writer, storyboard artist/director, and assistant director on Neon Genesis Evangelion. He created storyboards for Gunbuster and Otaku no Video (1991) for Gainax as well. I know Higuchi best for his work as the director of special effects for the ’90’s Gamera trilogy directed by Shusuke Kaneko.The incredible work he did on these films proved Higuchi to be a special effects master. He has gone on to direct several live-action films such as The Sinking of Japan (2006) and the upcoming two-part film adaptation of Attack on Titan.
In 2012, Anno curated Tokusatsu- Special Effects Museum-Craftsmanship of Showa and Heisei Eras Seen Through Miniatures at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. This exhibit really put Anno’s love for the genre on display and at the center of it was a short film produced by Anno and directed by Shinji Higuchi entitled Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo. This amazing short film gave a very nice taste of what these two friends could bring to a live-action giant monster project.
For the 2016 Godzilla film, Anno will be serving as the Writer and Supervising Director and Higuchi will be Director and Special Effects Director. This may seem to be a curious way to split up work duties on the movie but I feel it speaks to how closely the duo is working together. Godzilla is set to film in the fall for a release in the summer of 2016.
It is difficult to summarize how important and exciting it is to have Anno and Higuchi working together on a new Godzilla film. I think it shows how serious Toho is taking Godzilla after the successful release of Gareth Edwards’ recent american Godzilla film from 2014. Edwards is also set to direct two more Godzilla films to complete his own trilogy. The next film in the revitalized american series is set to open in 2018. Legendary, the production company behind the new american Godzilla films, also revealed at last year’s San Diego Comic Con that they had purchased the rights for King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan to appear along with Godzilla in the next two films from Edwards.
Toho has also commented that the new Godzilla in Anno and Higuchi’s upcoming film will be the tallest incarnation of the monster yet, towering over even Legendary Films’ 108-meter tall beast from last year.
Overall, it’s a great time to be a Godzilla fan.
Sources: Crunchyroll, Oricon, The Good, The Bad, and Godzilla (Tokusatsu expert August Ragone’s has an excellent write-up on the new film with translated comments from both Anno and Higuchi. Required reading.)