Monday, August 7, 2017

Goodbye, Haruo Nakajima

Haruo Nakajima, the original Godzilla (filling the role from 1954 to 1972, as well as various other Monster and Onscreen roles), passed away today at the age of 88.

I had the amazing chance to meet him (as well as fellow Toho veteran, Akira Takarada - pictured to my right, with Nakajima to my left) at the 2014 Spooky Empire Convention, hot off the tracks of 2014's Godzilla - a reboot which has proved incredibly successful for the series, spawning an American Kaiju film universe, the wild success of Shin Godzilla, and a new run of CG Animated Godzilla films set to begin later this year.

Haruo was alive to see this revival, and fittingly so. Godzilla: Final Wars - the 40th anniversary film designed, at the time, as the "series finale" for Godzilla - is now the final Godzilla feature to use Suitmation. Godzilla '14, Shin Godzilla, and seemingly all future installments have not used this technique at all; moving instead to CG animation. The torch has effectively been passed; while the days of lumbering rubber suits, model cities, pyrotechnics, and live performances are certainly gone, what they've influenced and fueled would be entirely nonexistent were they not displayed with the success Haruo (as well as effects mastermind, Eiji Tsuburaya) achieved.

Haruo was a very respectful, approachable man - especially for someone better known as Godzilla, Matango, Gaira, The H-Man, Neronga, Rodan, Gabora, Jirass, Kiyla... the list goes on. Getting his signature (on a photograph of him holding a Godzilla model used in Invasion of Astro-Monster ) has been an amazing highlight of my time as a Kaiju fan, perhaps only topped by getting to directly ask him a question during he and Takarada's panel; the question pertaining to how dangerous, as well as challenging his profession was. Needless to say, becoming a radioactive beast is no simple task; and doing so until the mid seventies is even less so.

Haruo's passing is a great loss, and hurts deeply as a fan and follower of his work. While the true Godzilla may be gone, his amazing onscreen work will never fade away to time; whether he be eerily wading through the dimly lit streets of Tokyo, dancing in joy on a distant planet, battling oversized foes on tropical islands, toughing up his adoptive son, or facing any innumerable amount of oddball interstellar invaders, Godzilla - with Nakajima - will eternally have life in the classic films which defined an era of monster-mash movie history.

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