Aki Hano

Mothra 3: King Ghidorah Attacks (1998, Yoneda Okihiro)

Mothra 3: King Ghidorah Attacks is simultaneously accessible but also one for the Mothra fans, which is a bit of a weird thing to think about. The film presupposes there are going to be dedicated Mothra fans in the audience and gears a lot of references towards them–at the moment I was appreciating the imagination behind the prehistoric larval Mothra, I realized I was definitely in that dedicated audience. While concerning, there’s so much good stuff in Mothra 3, it’s so creative.

Director Yoneda (who skipped the previous entry, but directed the first) has a bunch of differing styles and technologies going on. There’s miniatures, there’s man in suit, there’s CG, there’s CG-aided composites (which aren’t good), but then there’s CG-aided composites where background action moves into foreground and there’s just something to it. It’s a mix of special effects technologies pushed beyond what they can do. In seeing what’s too far, you do get to see where it would’ve been just right, where Mothra 3’s budget could have met Yoneda’s imagination. He’s gloriously, if unrealistically, ambitious with the film.

Suetani Masumi has a relatively solid script this outing (he scripted all three of these nineties Mothra films). There’s this troubled kid–the actor hasn’t ever gotten credit in an English language version apparently–who teams up with Mothra’s fairies to save the world. Except the fairies have a bigger story. There’s troublemaker fairy (Hano Aki, who tries really hard with no return from her costars), well-meaning fairy (Tate Misato) and perfect combination fairy (Kobayashi Megumi). Given how much they have to do in the film, it would really have helped if Tate weren’t awful and Kobayashi were a little better. With Kobayashi, the script fails her too often. But Tate’s bad. Otherwise Yoneda is good with the actors. The family stuff–basically uncredited troubled kid’s moodiness is just dragging down an otherwise happy family, though mom Matsuda Miyuki is way too young to have three kids and way too with it to be married to bumbling Fred Flintstone-esque Ohnita Atsushi.

And then there’s Mothra. Amazing set of Mothra designs in this one, as the creature itself has a fairly solid story arc. The traditional Mothra Christian imagery gets more integrated into the actual plot. There’s the very intentional rapturing imagery–Ghidorah flies over Japan, sucking up the children. And now since Mothra’s the boy giant moth, there’s a whole Mothra as Jesus thing, with Ghidorah graphically beating him and tearing away his flesh. Or wings. It’s a vicious kids movie.

Awesome Mothra song rendition. Yoneda treats it like a special aside, a wink at the audience. The special effects aren’t great–Mothra 3’s composite effects are really bad–but the enthusiasm carries it. There’s a thoroughness and sincerity to the film. Mothra 3 is a mix of story ideas, special effects ideas, acting styles (or lack thereof), yet it all works out. Yoneda brings it all together.



Directed by Yoneda Okihio; written by Suetani Masumi; director of photography, Sekiguchi Yoshinori; edited by Ogawa Nobuo; music by Watanabe Toshiyuki; produced by Tomiyama Shogo; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Kobayashi Megumi (Moll), Tate Misato (Lora), Matsuda Miyuki (the mother), Ohnita Atsushi (the father) and Hano Aki (Belvera).

Mothra 2: The Undersea Battle (1997, Miyoshi Kunio)

Mothra 2: The Undersea Battle is incredibly disappointing. It should be glorious in its stupidity–Mothra at one point turns into a giant fish-moth. Or is it moth-fish? There’s an underwater city raised up. There’s a furry E.T. or Gizmo-type creature and it’s got magical piss. Mothra 2 should be entertaining at the very least and it’s not. It’s never entertaining. Not even on the rare occasion something competent is going on.

There are numerous problems, but director Miyoshi plays the biggest part in the film’s badness. He’s not good with actors, he’s not inventive with special effects, either he doesn’t pace action sequences well or he doesn’t know how to cut corners well. Mothra 2 is incredibly cheap. There’s one miniature city and it’s this pyramid thing from a lost city a la Atlantis. It’s real boring looking, even though it’s got to be enormous because Mothra and the evil kaiju fight on it.

Oh, the evil kaiju. It’s a really dumb looking flying thing with four legs. It’s a bad suit. It’s a very, very bad suit. Mothra’s nothing great this time out either, but at least there’s something going on with it effects-wise–the flapping of the wings alone give it some personality. The bad kaiju has none. It’s a terrible design and a dumb story.

The fairies are boring–their subplot with the evil third sister is way too underdeveloped, with Miyoshi instead doing these terrible chase sequences. Mothra 2 is full of lousy composite shots and even lousier CG backdrops. Most of the movie is the three obnoxious little kid leads running around the interior of the pyramid in a mix of sets and CG and it’s just poorly done. There’s no sense of scale, for the visuals or for the story. The giant monsters attack Japan and no one cares except these little kids. And the human villains are these two guys who know the little girl lead’s mom.

But nothing can prepare for the last reveal in the film, because Mothra 2 is all about the future. It’s a kid’s movie, it’s “environmentally conscious,” it’s really weird and it’s a bad weird.

Watanabe Toshiyuki’s awful music doesn’t help matters, though I am going to skip listing the bad performances. It’s not the actors’ faults, it’s this movie. Mothra 2 just doesn’t work. It doesn’t work at all.



Directed by Miyoshi Kunio; written by Suetani Masumi; director of photography, Sekiguchi Yoshinori; music by Watanabe Toshiyuki; produced by Kitayama Hiroaki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Kobayashi Megumi (Moll), Yamaguchi Sayaka (Lora), Hano Aki (Belvera), Mitsushima Hikari (Uranai), Otake Masaki (Kyohei), Maganao Shimada (Yoji), Okuno Atsushi (Kotani), Okayama Hajime (Nagase) and Nonami Maho (Princess Yuna).

Mothra (1996, Yoneda Okihiro)

Mothra has the arguably unlikely problem of having way too many good ideas at once. For over an hour, director Yoneda is able to keep all the balls in the air. Sure, things fall apart in the third act, but the pieces are still glorious and the first two acts are stupendous.

It’s a kids movie with giant monster fights. Suetani Masumi’s script acknowledges a handful of kaiju standards, but doesn’t try to fit them in. Even with a giant monster fight taking up the entire second half (or eighty-five percent of it), Yoneda and Suetani never get too far away from the kids. Yes, Mothra is the kids movie with the relatable kids having the adventure of their lives.

Only it starts–before the kaiju arrive in force–as this crazy kids movie where Fujisawa Maya gets evil powers and imprisons her mom and attacks her brother. Futami Kazuki plays the brother. He and Fujisawa are effective together, which is what Yoneda worries about more with the kids than good performances. He gets good performances out of their parents, especially mom Takahashi Hitomi. Nashimoto KenjirΓ΄ plays the dad. He’s a bit of a doof who works too much, which pisses off Takahashi. She’s got to worry about her family, worry about monsters, rescue her brainwashed husband. She’s got lots to do.

I’ve forgotten to mention the three sister fairies. Two good, one bad. It’s absurd and goofy and sort of wonderful. There are big action sequences with these doll-sized fairies flying around the family’s house having a laser battle. Yoneda is bold with these sequences. He’s not enthusiastic exactly, as he seems too aware of his budgetary constraints, but he’s definitely bold. These action scenes are good. They just have technical problems.

Then there’s Mothra, of course. She gets the hero role starting in the second act, doubling it up because there’s a larva version too. Yoneda goes for iconic with a lot of the Mothra shots, something Watanabe Toshiyuki’s score helps with a lot.

Mothra is a wild time with a weak third act. The narrative closes off far more naturally at the end of the second act, leaving the film scrambling to reestablish itself. It’s finish is rocky, but more successful than not.



Directed by Yoneda Okihio; written by Suetani Masumi; director of photography, Sekiguchi Yoshinori; edited by Ogawa Nobuo; music by Watanabe Toshiyuki; produced by Kitayama Hiroaki; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Futami Kazuki (Taiki), Fujisawa Maya (Wakaba), Kobayashi Megumi (Moll), Yamaguchi Sayaka (Lora), Takahashi Hitomi (Mrs. Goto), Nashimoto KenjirΓ΄ (Mr. Goto), Tanaka Hiroko (Shiraishi) and Hano Aki (Belvera).

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