Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (ガメラ 大怪獣空中決戦?, lit. Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Battle) is a Gamera: Daikaijū Kūchū Kessen1995 tokusatsu kaiju film produced by Daiei Motion Picture Company and the ninth entry in the Gamera series. This film is the first in Shusuke Kaneko's Gamera trilogy and the first Gamera film to be released by Toho. It was released to Japanese theaters on March 11th, 1995, and to American theaters on April 16th, 1997.
While transporting a large amount of plutonium off the coast of the Philippines, the ship Kairyu-Maru ran aground on a strange floating atoll that seemed to come from nowhere. The atoll then floated away, leaving the ship intact but damaged. Naoya Kusanagi, an insurance representative, is appointed to lead the investigation into the accident. Kusanagi is approached by Yoshinari Yonemori, a crewmember from the Kairyu-Maru, who insists on taking part in the investigation. Kusanagi tells Yonemori that it would be improper for a representative from the private sector to take part in a government-sponsored investigation, and apologizes. Ever determined, Yonemori goes to Kusanagi's home, where he meets his daughter Asagi. Yonemori prepares dinner to impress Kusanagi, who reluctantly agrees to allow Yonemori to join the investigation when he arrives.
Meanwhile, ornithologist Mayumi Nagamine is approached by Inspector Osako, who asks her to accompany him to Himegami Island to investigate the recent disappearance of a university professor who was investigating the appearance of a large new species of bird. When they arrive on the island, they find the village destroyed and abandoned, as well as a large pile of excrement containing the professor's glasses. After further investigation, Nagamine and Osako discover the source of the devastation: three gigantic bat-like creatures. When night falls, the creatures begin to fly off the island and approach the Japanese mainland. Nagamine and Osako pursue the creatures in a chopper and take photographs, the light from the camera causing the creatures to recoil and fly away. Upon returning to Japan, Nagamine is approached by government representatives, who have determined that the creatures must be captured alive despite the danger they pose to civilians. They appoint Nagamine to devise a plan to capture all three creatures before they can harm anyone else. Nagamine decides to lure all three creatures to the Fukuoka Dome and sedate them with meat laced with tranquilizers, the trap them by closing the roof.
While Nagamine's plan is set into motion, the research team comes upon the mysterious floating atoll. Some members of the team climb onto the atoll, where they discover dozens of strange metal beads littering the ground. In the center of the atoll, they find a large stone tablet, inscribed with unknown runes. As they transcribe the runes, the atoll begins to shake, causing the tablet to shatter. A large mass emerges from the atoll and begins to float directly towards Fukuoka. Yonemori gets into a helicopter to warn the J.S.D.F. there. Yonemori lands near the Fukuoka Dome just as the flying creatures descend. They begin to eat the meat, but one of them sees a group of soldiers hiding in a dugout. It lunges at them, but is stunned by the flashing stadium lights and brought down with tranquilizers. One creature realizes the trap and flies away, leaving the other two unconscious. The J.S.D.F. quickly build metal cages around the creatures and begin to search for the escaped one. As the creature flies towards the open ocean, an even bigger giant turtle emerges from the water and smacks the flying creature into a nearby refinery, which explodes and kills it. The monster then comes ashore, tearing through the city of Fukuoka as it approaches the dome. The J.S.D.F. find their hands tied, as the Japanese constitution forbids them from attacking without legislative approval. As the monster nears the dome, Nagamine and Yonemori escape and watch as it tears apart the roof. The creatures inside awaken and fire sonic beams from their mouths to cut through their cages and fly away. The giant turtle then tucks its limbs into its shell and begins to spin like a flying saucer, flying off into the night.
Later, at Kusanagi's house, he and Yonemori examine the beads recovered from the atoll. They determine that the beads are composed of orichalcum, a type of metal believed to be mythical which appears in folklore. Kusanagi reveals that the runes transcribed from the tablet are similar to those from ancient Pacific island civilizations, and were successfully translated to Japanese. The translated text speaks of Gamera, the last hope against the shadow of evil, Gyaos. They determine that the giant turtle which appeared from the atoll must be the Gamera the tablet speaks of, while the giant flying creatures are Gyaos. Kusanagi's daughter Asagi remarks that this is reminiscent of popular legends about lost civilizations such as Atlantis and Lemuria. Kusanagi states that the legend of a lost super-ancient civilization likely spread through multiple cultures, but has a basis in actual fact. He hypothesizes that the tablet and the orichalcum beads were left behind by such a super-ancient civilization to warn modern-day humanity. He believes that Gamera himself was also created by this Atlantean civilization, which would explain how a giant bipedal turtle that flies like a flying saucer could exist. Asagi touches one of the beads, which becomes warm and starts to glow in her hand. Kusanagi states that the beads are government property, but Yonemori convinces him to let Asagi keep one. Asagi then ties the bead to a string and begins to wear it as a necklace.
DNA samples recovered from the Gyaos are analyzed by a colleague of Nagamine, revealing something surprising. The Gyaos are all female, and only possess a single pair of chromosomes. Analysis of these chromosomes reveals that these chromosomes are a perfect pair, with absolutely no genetic waste. Nagamine's colleague tells her that such a genetic makeup is impossible through evolution, and that the Gyaos must have been artificially created by the same Atlantean civilization that created Gamera. He also provides a disturbing implication: if the Gyaos are genetically perfect, it is likely that they can spontaneously change their genetics to become male and reproduce asexually. He states that it is likely that Gyaos have already reproduced and could reproduce again, presaging a disaster for humanity. Nagamine visits Himegami Island again and discovers a Gyaos nest. However, the hatchlings had no parent to feed them, and simply devoured each other. It is apparent that the three Gyaos that appeared on the island were the only members of the nest to survive.
One day, two Gyaos attack a village in the Japanese countryside, where Nagamine is present. Yonemori and Kusanagi rush to the village to find her, and find her helping a young boy cross a bridge to safety. Just then, a Gyaos descends and prepares to kill them with its sonic beam, only for Gamera to appear and block the beam with his hand, allowing Nagamine and the boy to get to safety. Gamera kills the Gyaos with a fireball, only for the second one to appear and attack him. After a brief clash, the Gyaos flies away, with Gamera in pursuit. It becomes clear to Kusanagi, Yonemori and Nagamine that Gamera is their ally, while Gyaos is a threat to all of humanity. The J.S.D.F. receives approval to carry out military campaigns against Gamera, while the government gives the order to capture Gyaos for further study. Nagamine speaks out to the government, warning them that Gyaos is the true enemy, but they paid no heed. The J.S.D.F. launches its first attack against Gamera by shooting him down over Mount Fuji, then attacking him with tanks. Asagi feels strangely drawn to Gamera and convinces a cab driver to take her to Mt. Fuji, even though it is blocked off. As Asagi watches Gamera become wounded by the artillery, she begins to develop cuts and bruises all over her body, corresponding to Gamera's injuries. The surviving Gyaos appears overhead and attacks the downed Gamera with its sonic beam, the injury causing Gamera to retreat and Asagi to pass out.
Asagi is brought to a hospital, where her father visits her. Nagamine and Yonemori arrive and tell Kusanagi it is likely that the orichalcum bead Asagi touched formed a telepathic link between her and Gamera, giving her the role of a priestess. Kusanagi is greatly distressed and refuses to accept it, then brings his daughter home. At a bar, Yonemori and Nagamine discuss the current predicament. Nagamine says that it appears the Atlanteans created Gyaos for some purpose, possibly as a weapon, only for their creations to turn against them and destroy them. They created Gamera as a last-ditch effort to stop the Gyaos and protect the planet should they ever return, but not in time to prevent their civilization's ultimate destruction. Yonemori remarks that the Atlanteans have left humanity a terrible heritage, but Nagamine says it's no different from the pollution mankind wreaks upon the planet today. Nagamine says it's possible that the changes in the Earth's conditions brought about by human activities may be responsible for the Gyaos' reappearance.
In the wilderness, the surviving Gyaos has grown increasingly large by feeding on humans and livestock. Eventually, it grows to 85 meters in height and becomes Super Gyaos. Super Gyaos flies to Tokyo and attacks a train, eating the passengers. Gyaos touches down in the heart of the city and is asleep by sunrise. The J.S.D.F. mobilizes and prepares an ambush against Super Gyaos, assuming its aversion to sunlight will make it weak during the day. While the creature is asleep, countless powerful homing surface-to-air missiles are launched at it. During the attack, Nagamine notices Super Gyaos has developed shield plates over its eyes. Super Gyaos is awakened by the attack and flies away, the missiles tracking it. The missiles collide instead with the Tokyo Tower, causing it to collapse. Super Gyaos then builds a nest on the ruined tower's observation deck, shrieking triumphantly. In the waters off Japan, Gamera's injuries heal as he prepares to head to Tokyo and take on Gyaos again. Asagi finally awakens, mush to her father's relief, but she states that they need to go to Tokyo immediately.
The next morning, Asagi and her father arrive in Tokyo just as the ground begins to shake and Gamera emerges from underground. He destroys Super Gyaos' nest with a fireball, prompting it to attack him. Gamera and Super Gyaos battle across the city, causing untold destruction. Eventually, they take their battle to the sky, and are pursued by a helicopter containing Kusanagi, Asagi, Nagamine and Yonemori. As Gamera is struck by Gyaos' sonic beam, Asagi develops cuts all over her body. Her father begs her to stop, but she says she can't, and that Gamera is fighting for all of them. Gamera grabs Gyaos and flies into Earth's atmosphere, then pile-drives back to the surface. During the descent, Super Gyaos uses its sonic beam to sever its own foot and escape Gamera's grip. Gamera crashes into a refinery and is consumed in a fiery explosion, while Gyaos descends to the ground slowly. Gyaos appears triumphant, until all of the fire is absorbed by Gamera, who is still standing. Super Gyaos charges a powerful sonic beam and fires it at Gamera, who counters with a huge fireball, which collides with Super Gyaos and blows its head clean off. Super Gyaos' headless corpse falls backwards and explodes. Gamera roars triumphantly and glances at Asagi before returning to the ocean. As Gamera wades out to sea, Asago remarks that she can no longer read Gamera's thoughts. Nagamine remarks that it is likely that more Gyaos eggs are located throughout the world, and that Gamera might not be there to save them next time. Asagi confidently says that Gamera will come again.
Staff role on the left, staff member's name on the right.
- Directed by Shusuke Kaneko
- Written by Kazunori Ito
- Produced by Tsutomu Tsuchikawa
- Music by Kow Otani
- Cinematography by Junichi Tozawa, Kenji Takama
- Edited by Shizuo Arakawa
- Production Design by Hajime Oikawa
- Special Effects by Shinji Higuchi
Actor's name on the left, character played on the right.
- Tsuyoshi Ihara as Yoshinari Yonemori
- Akira Onodera as Naoya Kusangi
- Shinobu Nakayama as Mayumi Nagamine
- Ayako Fujitani as Asagi Kusanagi
- Yukijiro Hotaru as Osako
- Hatsunori Hasegawa as Satake
- Hirotaro Honda as Mr. Saito
- Akira Kubo as Captain of the Kairyu-Maru
- Kojiro Hongo as Captain of the Nojima
- Takashi Matsuo as Taxi Driver
Weapons, Vehicles, and Races
- Main article: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe/Gallery.
- Main article: Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (Soundtrack).
- Japan - March 11th, 1995; August 21, 2011 (Setouchi International Children's Film Festival); 2015 (Tokyo International Film Festival)
- United States - April 16th, 1997
- Portugal - August 2, 1995
- Canada - September 16, 1995
- Belgium - March 1996 (Brussels International Festival of Fantasy, Thriller & Science Fiction Films)
- England - April 3, 1997
- Ecuador - February 9, 2012 (Festival de Cine Japonés Contemporáneo)
- Georgia - November 9, 2012 (Japanese Film Festival)
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was released theatrically in the United States on April 16th, 1997.
The film did fairly well, with a revenue of approximately $6,000,000 U.S.
Overall, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe was received fairly well by fans of the Gamera franchise, and even gained decent critical reception.
Notable movie critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four, saying: "Gamera: Guardian of the Universe is precisely the kind of movie that I enjoy, despite all rational reasoning. How, you may ask, can I possibly prefer this Japanese monster film about a jet-powered turtle to a megabudget solemnity like Air Force One? It has laughable acting, a ludicrous plot, second-rate special effects and dialogue such as, 'Someday, I'll show you around monster-free Tokyo!' The answer, I think, is that Gamera is more fun." Peter H. Gilmore of Monster Zero said, "All in all, this is a vibrant and energetic film. The monster battles are full of physical grappling as well as energy weapon exchanges, and the excellent suitmation is well augmented by judiciously used CGI." Popcorn Pictures said, "This is just a great, fun kaiju film. ... Gamera finally has a film to rival Godzilla (but he's still second best to the Big G, though) and rid the infamous legacy that has dogged him throughout his motion picture life."
ADV Films (2003)
- Released: March 18, 2003
- Region: Region 1
- Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0), Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0)
- Format: Anamorphic, Color, Dubbed, Subtitled, NTSC
- Other Details: 1.33:1 aspect ratio, 96 minutes run time, 1 disc, Japanese version
Mill Creek (2011)
- Released: October 25, 2011
- Region: A/1
- Language: Japanese, English
- Format: Blu-ray, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, NTSC
- Other Details: 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 2 disc, Japanese version
- This is the second movie where Gamera battles his archenemy, Gyaos.
- In 1998, BBC2 used the footage of the final battle between Gamera and Super Gyaos from this film during its Monster Night (an evening of programming dedicated to the giant-monster movie). It was used as part of a feature when the presenters of the evening would pretend to bet on the outcome of fights between various monsters.
- This film is the first known time that a kaiju was portrayed by a woman, as suit actress Yuumi Kaneyama portrayed the Super Gyaos. Director Shusuke Kaneko chose to have a woman portray Super Gyaos in order to make the creature appear streamlined and possess more feminine movements.
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe features numerous references to the earlier film, Gamera vs. Gyaos. Aside from featuring Gamera battling Gyaos, similarities include the film's poster, which is very reminiscent of the poster for Gamera vs. Gyaos, and the scene where Gyaos severs its own foot to escape from Gamera. Additionally, the films' Japanese titles are also very similar. Gamera vs. Gyaos' Japanese title is 大怪獣空中戦 ガメラ対ギャオス (Daikaijū Kūchū-sen: Gamera tai Gyaosu?), which translates to Giant Monster Dogfight: Gamera vs. Gyaos, while Gamera: Guardian of the Universe's Japanese title is ガメラ 大怪獣空中決戦 (Gamera: Daikaijū Kūchū Kessen?), which translates to Gamera: Giant Monster Midair Battle.
- Actor Akira Kubo, known for appearing in several of Toho's Godzilla and other kaiju films during the Showa era, makes a cameo in this film as the captain of the Kairyu-Maru.