Thursday, April 25, 2024

A Jungian Exploration of Gamera vs Guiron



The following essay was presented at the 2024 National Undergraduate Literature Conference at Weber State.


Abstract - 439 words


In the 1969 giant monster movie Gamera vs Guiron from Daiei Film, two curious boys embark on an interplanetary adventure.  Seeking a more advanced world, they come into conflict with its sole survivors, forcing a three round monster brawl between the boys’ friend, a giant turtle named Gamera, and the aliens’ watchdog, a quadrupedal fish with a knife for a head called Guiron (Yuasa, 1969).  Fans of the series praise this film in a backhanded sense, acknowledging lessened quality while upholding what it “tried” to do (Madole, 2022). This essay argues that Gamera vs Guiron uniquely explores psychological concepts proposed by Carl Jung, as opposed to more traditional themes for its technical subgenre of portal fantasy.  The ways in which the film develops its primary monsters, characters and worlds most strongly portray several Jungian ideas such as the self, shadow, anima, unconscious world and “answer to Job.”

Out of the twelve Gamera movies, Gamera vs Guiron is the fifth installment and the fourth of director Noriaki Yuasa.  AIP, an American production company Daiei partnered with for distribution, ordered Gamera vs Guiron to be a straightforward space adventure (Draper, 2023).  However, the crew’s input resulted in a script that follows plot beats of portal fantasy while containing events that benefit from a Jungian analysis.  Nisan Takahashi wrote all of the early Gamera films, Hidemasa Nagata, producer, enforced the films as fairy tale lessons for children, and Yuasa defined Gamera’s identity as a character and series through a reciprocal connection to active and curious child protagonists (Cynical Justin, 2022).  Meanwhile, Dr. Carl Gustav Jung, Swiss psychoanalyst and contemporary to Freud, wrote prolifically on the collective unconsciousness, naming archetypes as patterns of behavior (Jung & Stoor, 2013, pp. 13-16).  The persona, anima/animus and shadow count as archetypes of the self and personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious archetypes are the creator, ruler, caregiver, everyman, jester, lover, hero, magician, rebel, explorer, sage, and innocent (Main, 2023). Being a Japanese children’s film, it is certainly an unlikely place to find demonstrations of the archetypes of Carl Jung; Jung’s ideas have uniquely informed the landscape of cinema.  Jung’s insights into the self and shadow or anima and animus dichotomies have shaped the cinematic trope of doubles (Barnett, 2007). At the conclusion of this essay, the implementation of information from sources ranging from compilations of Jung’s work to scholarly articles analyzing Jung as well as portal fantasy conventions will indicate similarities to a Jungian perspective.  Because of the juxtaposition of these heretofore unconnected concepts, the findings in this essay will contribute to academic discourse on Japanese B movies and the men and philosophies that made them.


Jungian Shadow And Christ Concepts - 645 words


The rivalry between Gamera and Guiron is uniquely Jungian in that Guiron serves as Gamera’s Shadow. Generally, Jung writes on the idea of the shadow as being undesirable unconscious facets of the hero that keep them from a true understanding of themselves and their world (Jung & Stoor, pp. 91-93).  While analyzing Nietzche’s Zarathustra, Jung clarified that the shadow is a negative relationship between archetypes, informed by insecurities or possible failings (Jung, 2012).  Gamera does not fit any of the 12 common literary archetypes, so for this stage of the analysis, Gamera is Gamera, Guiron as an inverse Gamera.  On the surface, the knife head of Guiron contrasts Gamera’s protective shell, casting Guiron merely as the aggressor to Gamera’s defender, the sword against his shield in the theaters of land, sky and underwater. However, Guiron’s introduction into the film is defending the other world Tera from Gyaos, a monster that Gamera defended Earth from.  Furthermore, Guiron has a connection to the two remaining Terans, Flobella and Barbella, just as Gamera protects Akio and Tom specifically.  Additionally, the film chooses a gray and red/orange color palette for Tera that it keeps consistent with the infrastructure as well as the new Teran breed of Gyaos, indicating that the gray, red and green Guiron, since Gamera is also green, is to be Tera’s Gamera.  (Yuasa, 1969).  

Gamera is a being that inexplicably knows the state of the universe and the needs of his human friends, what they should do, and how he can help them, with no internal change necessary, which can only make him, according to Jungian psychological archetypes, the ideal Self: the Christ.  If the premise of attributing a turtle with human psychological qualities seems unwise, according to a 2002 interview with Jörg Buttgereit, Noriaki Yuasa’s understanding of the giant monster subgenre was thus that animals and humans were very similar in the capacity and expression of certain feelings (2002). Gamera undeniably serves a mentor role to the children, warning them against going to Tera and fighting to his utmost to keep them safe, even seeming to die and resurrect in the process (Yuasa, 1969).  This includes aspects of the Caregiver and Sage, but the Sage generally defers physical fighting to the hero (Gaynor-Guthrie, 2023). The Caregiver seems to be contextualized through the “Great Mother” archetype (Main, 2023). The Christ, as Jung defines it, can contain both and yet still more that applies to Gamera.  

Jung notes that the Christ of religion and tradition does not have a fitting Shadow and yet fights against evil, leading Jung to quote St. Augustine, “Those things we call evil, then, are defects in good things….” (Jung & Stoor, 2013 pp. 299-305).  Whereas Gamera defends Earth and children from Gyaos merely dutifully, Guiron does so sadistically. Importantly, whereas Akio and Tom build a relationship with the Christ figure Gamera, as Jung recommends, Flobella and Barbella’s use of technology as a shortcut for Guiron’s control undermines their society’s strength in the aftermath of a Gyaos attack (Yuasa, 1969). Gamera follows the boys to Tera because of his overwhelming drive to save children, but the distance the Terans put between themselves and Guiron downgrades his willingness to save them, turning him into a soulless weapon.  According to Wikizilla, the creature designer of Guiron, Akira Inoue, said, “....when I put the head of a knife on a body I created Guiron. It's not a living thing anymore, the idea comes from a weapon….” (Wikizilla, 2022).  This was a deliberate choice to reduce Guiron physically to a weapon even when the being showed complex thought in battle. It is significant that Gamera wins only when the children align with his will and Guiron’s allies retreat.  This essay will elaborate on Gamera as a distinctly Jungian Christ; first, it is important to see how that interpretation transforms the journeys of Akio and Tom with the villains.


Jungian Anima or Portal Fantasy in Gamera vs Guiron - 820 words


Akio and Tom’s journey displays Jungian themes, as they start the film as the characters most concerned with seeking unconscious truths about the cosmos and gradually gain understanding about their role in their world by mastering a shadow version of it.  While the basic setup classifies Gamera vs Guiron into portal fantasy, the film is a poor example of the associated character arcs.  Portal fantasy is essentially any story that emphasizes bizarre creativity from the perspectives of young children discovering fantasy worlds.  Another word for a child’s fantasy world is paracosm (K. & Swamy, 2021, pp. 28-29). Crucially, these stories function as a marriage between reality and fantasy, brought on by a child protagonist’s boredom (Tatar, 2020, pp 24-25, 27).  Gamera vs Guiron is commonly vaguely referred to as a fairy tale for reasons that fit portal fantasy. Coraline by Neil Gaiman, the typical modern and contemporary portal fantasy novel, also extends the genre to its ultimate implicit psychological stances on paracosm (K. & Swamy, 2021, pp. 35).

Coraline’s paracosm is, in story, real but can also be considered symbolic for the growth and maturity of a child during self play: wanting to escape the world around her into a new one filled with magic, realizing the imperfections of her paracosm, losing interest in it, and, finally, returning to it in order to finish the story.  Like all paracosm and most examples of portal fantasy, Coraline’s Other World is a mixture of reality and fantasy; in particular, the fantastical figures populating it are versions of the people she knows in the real world (K. & Swamy, 2021, pp. 30-34, 32). The expectation would then be for Gamera vs Guiron to follow these beats for the journeys of Akio, Tom, and the people they find on Tera, and, lest it seem an unfair comparison, Yuasa had already directed a horror film called The Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch with similar tropes to those that would eventually inform Coraline: ambiguously real fantasy and the warping of surrounding people into monsters through the eyes of an intelligent young girl (Miles). 

The boys begin Gamera vs Guiron studying the stars through Akio’s telescope, when they see a spaceship.  Akio’s mother soon chastises them for imagining a spaceship rather than studying, and Tom’s mother agrees, casting them as stern characters, unlike Flobella and Barbella’s warm reaction to the boy’s curiosity (Yuasa, 1969).  However, Akio’s quirky neighbor, policeman Kondo, does not have a Teran equivalent, nor does Akio’s sister Tomoko, and Flobella and Barbella have an arc and dynamic more similar to Akio and Tom than their mothers.  Akio constantly orders around Tom, who obeys, and Flobella does the same to Barbella, while the mothers are equals. Also, the Terans plan to leave Tera, just as the boys left Earth. The film subverts portal fantasy conventions in order to include another doubles pair.  In this case, the doubles are swapped in sex, which points back to Jung’s idea of the anima/animus.  

The anima (man’s inner woman) and animus (woman’s inner man) generally comprise underlying personalities for the self based on the person’s previous experiences with an opposite sex parent, and Jung writes that when people remain unconscious to their world, the anima will be warped (Jung & Stoor, 2013, pp. 104-109).  Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is an archetypal doubles film, and its doubles pair is the confused Norman becoming his anima (Norma) in a deviant fashion (Barnett, 2007). Akio and Tom are curious about the cosmos and Tera because they want to escape Earth; the Terans are curious about Earth to escape there.  Akio’s telescope is not precise enough, so their animas act in imprecise and cruel ways: eating Akio’s brain for his knowledge (Yuasa, 1969).  According to Jung, “...when anima and animus meet, the animus draws his sword of power, and the anima ejects her poison of illusion and seduction” (2013, pp. 112).  While Coraline crafted a narrative through experiencing the paracosm and ultimately outsmarting the Beldam, the only asset of Akio and Tom in their journey, other than Gamera, is a cap gun that Tom has as a masculine symbol.  The Terans deceive the boys and are attractive (Madole, 2022).

Interestingly, neither the cap gun nor the trickery excel for the pairs long term in their confrontation, even when they switch, with the boys using trickery and the Terans using laser guns.  This is because the anima and animus are complementary, and the self must accept both the logical male traits and the emotional female traits in order to achieve awareness (Jung & Stoor, 2013, pp. 113). To win, Akio and Tom have to exemplify both halves, containing the emotional Tom and logical Akio and align the technology of Tera to Gamera’s will, controlling a rocket missile for Gamera to use against Guiron. The Terans do not assimilate Earth and divide, leaving Flobella at the mercy of an incidental missile collision, no longer in control of Tera.  


 Jung and Portal Fantasy In The WorldBuilding of the Film - 383 words


Gamera vs Guiron portrays its worlds and the struggle of using technology to try to understand or master them, and this is important both to Jung and portal fantasy.  Some of the historical hallmarks of portal fantasy are odd vehicles (the portal itself), references to sweets, magic, and an implicit disdain for Enlightenment scientific ideals and technology.  One of the earliest influences on the genre E.T.A. Hoffmann used the concept of whimsical fancies of bored children to create magical aesthetics and explore debunked magical thinking (Tatar, 2020, pp. 31-32, 26-27, 36). 

The Terans tempt Akio and Tom with donuts, and the overreliance of the Terans and human scientists on modern technology prevent them from understanding their worlds. However, the boys’ eventual mastery over Tera and return home hinges on the use of technology; crucially, the portal vehicle is not magical at all but a mere spaceship.  The aesthetic of Tera is not magical but technological (Yuasa, 1969).  According to Jung, “technology is neutral…neither good nor bad,” with the danger being a misplaced sense of control over the world, with the lack of consciousness in operating the technology inevitably leading to destruction (Brien, 2013). The film is closer to this because the use of technology is from honest efforts to understand the cosmos or improve life, from Akio’s telescope to the Earthbound scientists studying space and even the Teran innovations, and the positive characters accept Akio and Tom’s conscious explanation.

Under the purview of portal fantasy, the Teran Space Gyaos are technically an “Other Gyaos” but not ones that say anything about the nature of the boys’ paracosm.  Interestingly, the origin of Space Gyaos in this film is that they were a created species on Tera that wreaked havoc on their creators (Yuasa, 1969).  The Terans’ technological advancement led to their destruction.  There is a component of childlike randomness in the film’s explanation, that it was a computer malfunction that generated uncontrollable monsters, but the film constantly reiterates that Akio’s idea of a superior world would lack wars and traffic accidents, and Tera shows him that world with its teleportation machines and superior technology.  It is warped because technology does not bring Jungian awareness.  That superior technology can malfunction to create monsters, necessitating the creation of missiles and other monsters (Yuasa, 1969).


Answer to Job in Gamera vs Guiron - 427 words


Outside of the mere allusion, appointing Gamera as Christ requires more specific character beats to fit as a Jungian archetype.  Jung wrote exhaustively, and to some degree uncomfortably and unwillingly, about how the god-image could be both good and evil particularly in the Book of Job (Woolfson, 2009, pp. 127-128). This is, evidently, because of Jung’s complicated emotions toward Christianity and God as a whole following the loss of faith of his father Paul Jung (Woolfson, 2009, pp. 124, 134).  In the Book of Job, God tested Job’s faithfulness with a series of horrible trials, and Job endured it (Jung & Stoor, 2013, pp. 309-320).  While Jung emphasized the importance of both positive masculine and feminine influences (syzygy of anima and animus) and the risks of lacking either, it greatly disturbed Jung to realize that God lacked the caring feminine traits until after Job’s story.  Suffice it to say, this goes against everything else in Jung’s psychology about man’s need to align with God’s will to find enlightenment if God was “unconscious” and “monstrous” (Woolfson, 2009, pp. 135, 138, 134).  Eventually, Jung concluded that Job showing greater goodness than God is what inspired God to become Christ (Jung & Stoor, 2013, pp. 309). 

Inexplicably, this idea has a parallel in Gamera vs Guiron; in order to learn more about the Gyaos-slaying Gamera, the Terans technologically extract Akio’s memories to recapitulate the previous films, including showing Gamera’s first act of heroism (Yuasa, 1969). The montage briefly shows Gamera’s journey from destroying a lighthouse and catching a child to defending the same child from Gyaos to finally defending all children from the extraterrestrial squid Viras. This covers Gamera’s arc well; he was an attacking monster that saved a child, and that event inspired Gamera to be “The Friend to All Children” (Yuasa, 1969).  In a revisionist sense, this montage is the truest version up to that point in the series of those past events, and its deviations correspond to Jung.  It is not as precise as Jung’s Answer to Job, because Yuasa had a different agenda.  

Yuasa campaigned seriously to include the lighthouse scene and follow it through to its natural conclusions in subsequent entries (Cynical Justin, 2022).  An interview clarified why this was so important to Yuasa; he briefly filmed at a home for abandoned children, saw their sadness and appointed Gamera as a friend to all children for them (Buttgereit, 2002).  

Later creatives on the franchise would make the comparison even less subtle, but this is also the first film where Gamera undergoes a cycle of death and rebirth. 


Limitations - 162 words


Jung’s writings and Yuasa’s film have different goals and will, consequently, not line up in every detail.  First, all this aforementioned Jungian subtext is exclusive to this movie and the presentation of those stock footage scenes. Secondly, as a consequence to Jungian unconsciousness plaguing the boys’ mothers, they do not encompass many of Jung’s Mother Archetype tropes; they are neither great sources of wisdom, nor terrible, seductive objects (Jung, 1968 pp. 81-84). Finally, this essay cannot present any evidence that Yuasa was familiar with Jung or held any Christian beliefs.  Yuasa’s description of his own beliefs in his works extends more to finding humanity in giant creatures than finding divinity in man (Buttgereit, 2002).  Also, as aforementioned, Yuasa directed The Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch, which features both Christianity and Nietzsche subtext in its monsters (Wilkins, 2022).  However, that film was based on a large body of work from Kazuo Umezu, who has his own associated tropes and views (Miles).



Conclusion - 125 words


In conclusion, this essay contrasted interpretations of the film Gamera vs Guiron in order to argue that it predominantly upheld Jungian conventions, even deviating from the parameters of portal fantasy in order to do so.  The portrayal of Gamera and Guiron as a Christ/Shadow pair, the boys and villains along the parameters of animus/anima development, the uniquely Jungian stance on technology and rough depiction of the Answer to Job outweighed the alternative explanations that portal fantasy would provide.  Based on this research, there are similarities between the outlooks of Yuasa and Jung, and further analysis through this lens could help to better understand Yuasa’s intent on his filmography.  Further cursory research suggests potential commonalities in both of their views on animals and children.



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To read a review of Gamera versus Guiron, go here.

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