Gamera (ガメラ) is a giant, flying turtle from a popular series of kaiju (Japanese giant monster) films produced by Daiei Motion Picture Company in Japan. Created in 1965 to rival the success of Toho Studios' Godzilla during the monster boom of the mid-to-late 1960s, Gamera has gained fame and notoriety as a Japanese icon in his own right.
In the United States, Gamera attained prominence during the 1970s due to the burgeoning popularity of UHF television stations featuring Saturday afternoon matinee showcases like Creature Double Feature and later in the 1990s when several Gamera films were featured on the television program Mystery Science Theater 3000.
Gamera has the general configuration of a turtle, albeit a tremendously large one that is capable of bipedal locomotion, though he occasionally walks quadrupedally in his first three films. Gamera demonstrates the ability to manipulate objects with his forefeet. he possesses a pronounced sagittal crest on top of his head and his mouth is filled with teeth, with a pair of large tusks protruding upward from the lower jaws, a precedent unheard of in turtles, save perhaps for the prehistoric turtles Proganochelys and Odontochelys.
In the Shōwa era series Gamera was a titanic, fire-breathing, prehistoric species of tortoise who fed on petroleum-based material assumedly giving him the ability to breathe fire and fly by "jets" ignited when the monster retracts its legs - it can propel itself by spinning through the air with all 4 legs in and (shown in later films) can fly straight with just the 2 rear legs drawn inside its shell. The original movie begins showing bombers of the U.S.S.R. being intercepted by American fighters over U.S. air space in the arctic (the intrusion may not be intentional). The Soviet pilots refuse to be forced down because of the presence of atomic bombs onboard their aircraft so they attempt to leave the area. However, the fighters launch an attack and one of the bombers crashes into the ice. A nuclear blast ensues as does the release from suspended animation in the ice of a 200 foot long turtle. The incident unfolds over the heads of a Japanese research team who have stumbled upon an Eskimo tribe in possession of an artifact, an ancient stone etching, that suggests the giant turtle (maybe more than one) had been observed and duly noted at some earlier time in mankind's history. The moniker "Gamera" has already been given to the beast as the tribal chief relates to the researchers. The body of the film gives the impression that Gamera is a creature whose unusual adaptions must have somehow evolved in the latter part of Earth's early ammoniac, carbon-dioxidal atmosphere.
In the Heisei era series, however, the origin of Gamera was tweaked to make the theme much more directly heroic: a bio-engineered Guardian of the Universe created by Atlantis with the purpose of defeating Gyaos, another ancient creation capable of killing all human life. The giant turtle is found floating adrift in the Pacific, encased in rock and mistaken for an atoll. Within the rock, investigators discover a large monolith explaining Gamera's purpose, as well as dozens of magatama, which allow a psychic link between Gamera and humans. In the third film of the series, an undersea graveyard is found with many other Gamera fossils, suggesting Gamera was not the only member of his kind created. One character in the film refers to these fossils as "beta versions" of Gamera, possible failures in Atlantis' attempts to create the final version. Another scene provides Gamera with a link to Asian folklore, with a character relating a story in which a giant tortoise is considered the Guardian of the North, with separate, rival creatures defending the East, West and South.
Gamera's continuity was rebooted again in the only film of the Millennium era. The film begins with the original Gamera sacrificing himself to destroy several Gyaos in 1973. 33 years later, a young boy finds a strange, glowing red rock near his home, with a small egg lying on top of it. A fairly normal looking baby tortoise soon hatches from the egg, but begins to grow at an alarming rate. The turtle, now named "Toto" by his preadolescent owner, quickly develops Gamera's classic abilities to breathe fire and fly, and attempts to ward off another attacking monster, Zedus, but is too weak to succeed. Only after eating the glowing rock found with his egg does the new Gamera achieve his full power, defeating Zedus and flying off into the sky.
Gamera's shell is extremely resilient and strong. Missiles and other weaponry merely bounce off it, along with most of his opponents' attacks. There have been a few times where his shell has faltered, most notably when the alien Guiron hammered at the same spot several times and began cutting through. The flying monster Gyaos' sonic beam, the alien shark Zigra's paralyzing beam, and the mutant lizard Barugon's rainbow ray cannot penetrate Gamera's shell, shown in the films when he withdraws into his shell to avoid the attacks. Gamera's underbelly, however, is softer and not as resilient, and he has been cut and gouged in his stomach to the point of bleeding.
In the Showa series, Gamera fed on fire and was attracted by other heat sources, such as power plants and Barugon's rainbow ray attack. He could breathe intensely hot streams of flames from his mouth when caught in a more serious situation. The Heisei version, on the other hand, could blast off mighty plasma fireballs from his mouth, usually very quickly, and with varying accuracy; they were highly explosive. The Heisei version could also absorb a great deal of mana, or the living essence and energy of life on Earth, and release an extremely powerful stream of pure plasma from his chest. In the final film of the Heisei series, Gamera blasted his own arm off and absorbed plasma fireballs shot by the mutant Gyaos Iris and used his stump to grow back his arm in a plasmic form.
Gamera also has the ability to fly. Generally, Gamera pulls in his arms, legs, head, and tail into his shell, fires flames out of his arm and leg cavities and spins around like a flying saucer. This mode of flight had an added advantage in the later films, where he used the sharp edges of his shell to cut enemies while spinning, similar to a circular saw. He has a second way of flying, where he only pulls in his legs and/or tail, fires flames from the leg cavities, and flies like a jet. In the Heisei era films, Gamera's arms would extend and stretch out into wings similar to the flippers of a sea turtle whilst using this form of flight, giving him added aerodynamics and control.
The Heisei films gave Gamera one more additional weapon: a pair of sharp spikes protruding from his elbows. In his first Heisei appearance, these spikes were hidden during the majority of the film, extending only when needed in battle. In later appearances they were permanently extended.
When seriously or gravely injured, Gamera can enter a coma-like state in order to heal. This often fools his opponents into thinking that he is dead. This ability has been used in almost every Gamera film.
Gamera's only major weakness is cold. Barugon was able to achieve success against Gamera using his freezing spray, and scientists nearly defeated Gamera during his first appearance using special freezing bombs. This weakness was only shown in Gamera's earliest films.
Gamera made his first appearance in 1965's Gamera, which was also the only Gamera film to be in black-and-white. In 1966 the movie was reedited and recut and released in America as Gammera the Invincible. Subsequent films, usually directed by Noriaki Yuasa and written by Nisan Takahashi, quickly became a big hit with children, who loved watching Gamera fight monsters. A seventh sequel was slated for a 1972 release, tentatively titled Gamera vs. Garasharp. Gross mismanagement of Daiei, however, put the company into bankruptcy, and the Gamera films were forced to cease production.
After Daiei was purchased by Tokuma Shoten in 1974, the new management wanted to do a new Gamera film in 1980, so Gamera: Super Monster was produced. The majority of the film used stock footage (with limited new scenes of Gamera flying), and acted as a "recap" of Gamera's history. However, Yuasa and Takahashi felt that they had done all they could with the monster, so they respectfully killed off Gamera at the end of the film.
This series began with Gamera: Guardian of the Universe.
During the course of the first film, three Gyaos are discovered on a remote island. The Japanese government discovers that they are all female, and decides that since they are the last of their kind, they should be captured and studied. So a trap is set for them. Meanwhile, a search has been assembled for a moving atoll in the Pacific. They find it, staying still and search the surface, finding many small gems made of an unknown metal. They also discover a stone sticking up out of the center of it, and they attempt to dig it out. They manage to take pictures and collect some of the strange gems, but the stone crumbles and the atoll takes off towards Japan at high speeds. It ends up that the atoll is actually an ancient monster, made by the Atlanteans, called Gamera. He attacks the Gyaos, killing two, but one escapes. It feasts on the other newly born Gyaos and grows to Gamera-like proportions. The two battle and Gamera manages to defeat it, heading back to the seas.
In Gamera 2: Advent of Legion, Earth was attacked by an alien force known as the Legion.
In Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys, Gamera had to face hordes of Gyaos and his ultimate foe, Iris.
Gamera the Brave returns Gamera to his Showa roots, but with a modern twist. In the film, Gamera is first seen defending Japan back in the 1970s from the Gyaos, but sacrifices himself to destroy them by self-destructing. In the present, the child of a man who witnessed that battle finds a turtle egg that hatches into a baby Gamera that he names Toto. When a giant lizard monster named Zedus appears, Toto tries to fight the beast, but ends up being gravely wounded and taken by the military for study. He ends up escaping and growing to a larger size to try and fight Zedus again, this time succeeding against the monster.
- Gamera (1965)
- Gamera vs. Barugon (1966)
- Gamera vs. Gyaos (1967)
- Gamera vs. Viras (1968)
- Gamera vs. Guiron (1969)
- Gamera vs. Jiger (1970)
- Gamera vs. Zigra (1971)
- Gamera: Super Monster (1980)
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
- Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996)
- Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys (1999)
- Gamera the Brave (2006)
In 2010, Shout! Factory acquired the rights from Kadokawa Pictures for all eight of the Showa Gamera films to release the uncut, Japanese versions on DVD for the first time ever in North America. These "Special Edition" DVDs were released in sequential order, starting with Gamera: The Giant Monster on May 18, 2010, followed by Gamera vs. Barugon and two double-features: Gamera vs. Gyaos/Gamera vs. Viras and Gamera vs. Guiron/Gamera vs. Jiger. On March 15, 2011 Shout! Factory released the last of the series in a double feature of Gamera vs. Zigra / Gamera: Super Monster.
The University of Maryland Gamera Human Powered Helicopter took its name from Gamera. Since the University mascot is a Diamondback Terrapin, the craft would be a flying turtle.
Species Giant turtle
Alias The Invincible
The Guardian of the Universe
The Friend of All Children
Height 60–80 metres
Weight 80-120 tons
Air speed Mach 3
Origins Arctic (Showa)
Major enemies Barugon
Allies Children of Earth
First appearance Gamera
Created by Yonejiro Saito
Portrayed by: Showa series
The Guardian of the Universe
The Friend of All Children