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Sunday, April 21, 2013

CREATURE FEATURE : Weapons Edition - Maser Cannon

The Maser Cannon is a fictional weapon featured in many of Toho Studio's sci-fi and fantasy films. There have been several varieties, but each function in a similar way and have a similar appearence. Variations of the Maser have appeared in 12 films thus far.

Many fans consider the inspiration for the final version of the Maser Cannon to be the Markalite Cannon from 1957's The Mysterians. The gigantic satelite-like weapon fired a ray/beam from its center, and proved to be very effective. A similar weapon also appeared in 1959's Battle in Outer Space. In 1961, the movie Mothra featured the famous Atomic Heat Ray Gun, a Markalite-like weapon that took the basic design that was featured in the previous films and placed it on wheels. The tank-like form was taken to the next level five years later for the film War of the Gargantuas, the first film to feature an official Maser Cannon.

Although there are several different types of Masers, most have a similar appearence and all function in about the same way. The Maser is basically a large tank that supports a laser firing system in the form of a large arm ending in a satelite-like head. Usually, the arm lowers down when the tank is moving, and rises to take aim at the intended target. The head then fires a steady beam that resembles a laser beam or stream of lightning. The beam has proven to be very effective against some monsters, the best example being Gaira. Masers were also very effective in driving off such monsters as Anguirus and Godzilla (only in The Return of Godzilla), and a variation of the Maser, called the DAG-MB96 or ULT Laser Cannon (which appeared in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)) even succeded in killing the monster Destoroyah at the film's climax. However, most of the time, the Masers fell before the might of the monsters. Maser weapons were utilized by Kiryu, as mouth cannons and the chest-mounted Hyper Maser Cannon, in the Millennium series films.

Different Incarnations
Type 66 Maser Cannon
Hyper Laser Cannon
DAG-MB96 (also known as the ULT (Ultra Low Temporature) maser Cannon)
Type 90 Maser Cannon
Type 90 Maser Cannon (Second Generation)
Cryogenic Tank (Godzilla: Unleashed)

Film Profiles
Type 66 Maser Cannon
Length: 14.5 meters Height: 6 meters Mass: 80 tons
Created back in the mid 1960's, this piece of machinery would soon be the leader in Japan's military forces. Able to emit a thin, jagged beam of plasma energy, the weapon proved to be able to hurt many a kaiju. Leading against such foes as Gaira, Gigan, King Ghidorah, and Megalon, the weapon gained respect within minutes. Unfortunately the weapon did have its flaws, like all the others. Because of the fragility of the reactor's core, the machine could not handle any extreme heat. Meaning if that it was struck with a kaiju's energy blast, it would definatly not survive.

Hyper Laser Cannon
Length: 20 meters Height: 5.34 meters Mass: 120 tons
In secret, the Japanese government developed highly advanced technologies during the waning years of the Cold War. Among these military vehicles were the aerial battle-mech: the Super X, and the ground-based beam weapon: the hyper laser cannon. When Godzilla attacked Tokyo in 1984, almost 30 years after his predecessor's initial strike, the JSDF finally put these weapons into commission, to help rid the nation of this terror. Meanwhile, an esteemed professor continued his work on a crude, yet highly effective mind-control device, a brilliant blueprint for what would be Godzilla's not-so-ultimate defeat...

As the Japanese government continued to allow Dr. Hayashida's experiment to run its course, two hyper laser cannons were dispatched to contend with the towering terror. The avian frequency device, used to trick Godzilla's mind into following whoever wields the machine, began to lead the monster barreling straight into Dr. Hayashida's lab. Those trapped within the laboratory watched in horror as the cold eyes of the lumbering leviathan approached, but luckily, the piercing chirp of a concentrated beam collided with Godzilla. The curious creature turned to face this exotic weaponry, and in the process, damaged the building in which Dr. Hayashida was conducting his experiments. The beast continued to turn toward the laboratory from which he sensed the familiar frequencies, but was quickly distracted by the mild challenge that the relatively diminutive hyper laser cannons posed...

Both tanks continued to unleash their powerful beams at Godzilla, but the monster barely reared at the searing strikes. The two devices, firing from two separate angles, blasted Godzilla and managed to lure the monster through the park and away from the lab. Fortunately, the ultimate weapon, the Super X, had finally arrived to relieve the burden off of the ineffective beam cannons. It was certain that this new weapon would be the device that would succeed where so many others failed. The hyper laser cannons bid a silent retreat.

Length: 16 meters Height: 4.8 meters Mass: 85 tons
The MBT-92 would replace the hyper laser cannon when the threat of godzilla return in the late 80s. It would first encounter godzilla in 1989 were it would prove its usefulness against the atomic dragon. Later throughout the the 1990s the MBT-92 would encounter godzilla multiple times. However despite the combination of firepower, armor and mobility the MBT-92 would eventually in every encounter with godzilla or an other kaji be defeated. The MBT-92 Is six wheeled and very armored with An maser cannon that can project an single ray. In Godzilla vs Destroyah the MBT-92 is equipped with an Ultra-Low Temperature laser and additonal missile pods.

Length: 10.5 meters Height: 7.9 meters Mass: 105 tons
A new spin was placed on the favored Maser Cannon design that had so aided Japan's Self Defense Force in the mid 1990's. The go-ahead to produce this new "freezing gun" was given when Godzilla was transformed into a ticking time bomb. The new Burning Godzilla threatened to be overtaken by his nuclear heart and detonate, taking all of Japan with it in a Chinese Syndrome. A plan of action to cool down the giant was immediately taken into play. Oddly enough, though, Godzilla wasn't the first monster to face the improved DAG-MB96. Instead, the machines were called against the gathering Destoroyah forces. Joined with the Apaches and Type 90 tanks, the DAG-MB96's unleashed their fury. Freezing missiles, and glacier blast of ionized energy cut into the armies of the Destoroyahs. The weapon was proving its worth, until the Precambrian life forms merged into a single giant. Within seconds they outgrew the pitiful gnat like stings of the Freezing masers and destroyed all that laid before it.

Worrying over their losses, the second wave of vehicles were used a bit more wisely. The Self Defense Force waited until the closing minutes of Burning Godzilla and Destoroyah's fight before striking. As the armored giant tried to flee from Godzilla's grasp, the military was deployed. They stole the victory from the nuclear giant, killing and ending Destoroyah's reign of terror forever. However, there was no time to gloat over the victory, as their next target, the overheating Godzilla, was about to reach critical mass. They showered the monster with icy man made weapons, but they could not halt the inevitable. However, in Godzilla's fleeting moments of life he was able to instill his energy in Junior, reviving him, and avoiding the explosion for which the SDF feared.

Type 90 Maser Cannon Type 90 Maser Cannon (Second Generation)
Length: 19 meters Height: 6.1 meters Mass: 132 tons
Following in a line of effective maser weapons, the Type 90, which shares similarities in such things such as design with the earlier Type 66 Maser Cannon, was one of the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of the Japanese Self Defense Forces. Unfortunately, it did have a few weaknesses with the most important being that if it had to fight against a kaiju in a rainstorm, the rain would reduce the power of the energy beam.

Eventually they met their match in 1999 at the hands of Godzilla who easily destroyed the Type 90s maser cannons during a battle around Tateyama. Their ineffectiveness persuaded the Japanese Prime Minister at the time, Machiko Tsuge, to sanction the development of new weapons, including one that used the bones of the original Godzilla as its basis. Despite the weapon's ineffectiveness against Godzilla, the Type 90 maser cannon continued to see action in subsequent battles against the king of the monsters.

Type 90 Maser Cannon (Second Generation)
Length: 19 meters Height: 6.1 meters Mass: 132 tons
One of the many military weapons in the arsenal of the Japanese Self-Defense Force, the Type 90 Maser Cannon was utilized during an epic battle with Godzilla in the mid-1960s. The snow and ice of the Antarctic landscape gave way to these technological wonders as they made their approach toward Godzilla. The searing streams of electricity fired, and along with a wide variety of other military weaponry and a brutal storm, it appeared as though the advantage was immediately on the side of the humans. Shortly after the assault commenced, however, the wretched reptile began to regain his composure and retaliate. Among his primary targets were these devices that inflicted pain and agony in their flowing currents, and it did not take long for a single atomic ray to wipe out the maser resistance. Their usefulness was immediately proven worthless...

Film Appearances
War of the Gargantuas (1966)
Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
The Return of Godzilla (1984)
Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1993)
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

The original Maser that appeared in War of the Gargantuas had a head that always remained parallel to the ground benieth it. This was due to the fact that the light bulb used to light the Maser prop could only function parallel to the floor of the set.
In George Lucas' Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), durring the climactic battle between the clone and droid armies on the planet Geonosis, the clones unleash a laser tank against the escaping Trade Federation starships that bears a striking resemblance to Toho's Maser Cannon. Both rest on tanks and fire a blue beam from a satelite-like head. While it is unknown weather or not Lucas used the Maser Cannon for inspiration, it is extremely likely given the similarities. (This is not without precedent; Lucas had referenced Japanese cinema previously in the Star Wars series. The characters of C-3PO and R2-D2 were based on the always bickering peasants in Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece The Hidden Fortress. Also, the Rancor, a giant alien monster that had made an appearence in Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi, was based on Godzilla himself, and was originally planned to be realized via suitmation.)

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