Director: Ishiro Honda
Writer: Shinichi Sekizawa
Cast: Tadao Takashima, Yoko Fujiyama, Yu Fujiki, Kenji Sahara, Ken Uehara, Hiroshi Koizumi, Jun Tazaki, Yoshifumi Tajima, Akihito Hirata, Hideyo Amamoto, Susumu Fujita, Minoru Takada, Hisaya Ito, Ikio Sawamura, Tetsuko Kobayashi, Akemi Kita, Hiroshi Hasegawa, Nadao Kirino, Shin Otomo, Haruya Sakamoto, Tetsu Nakamura, Mitsuo Tsuda, Koji Uno, Sadako Amamiya, Rinsaku Ogata, Hideo Otsuka, Yutaka Oka, Yukihiko Gondou, Shoichi Hirose, Katsumi Tezuka, Jiro Kumagai, Yasuzo Ogawa, Shiro Tsuchiya, Wataru Omae, Toshio Miura, Masayoshi Kawabe, Hiroshi Akitsu, Hideo Shibuya, Keisuke Yamada, Shinjiro Hirota, Keisuke Yamaji, and Kuniyoshi Kashima
Composer: Akira Ifukube
Release Date: 12/22/1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Makoto Jinguji (Yoko Fujiyama) and retired Rear Admiral Kusumi (Ken Uehara) are nearly kidnapped by Muans, members of an underwater kingdom bent on world domination. Only a submarine built by Captain Jinguji (Jun Tazaki), a World War II naval officer and father to Makoto, can save humanity from the Mu Empire.
A tokusatsu film distributed by Toho Studios, Atragon lacks a compelling, swiftly paced narrative to complement its adventure-themed subject matter. Fans of Eiji Tsuburaya (a special effects director famous for his contributions to the kaiju eiga genre) may nevertheless enjoy this offering, which includes the first appearance of Manda—an obscure daikaiju known for his cameo in Destroy All Monsters.
For his conflicted portrayal of Captain Jinguji, actor Jun Tazaki should be praised. Especially notable is the reluctance that Jinguji exhibits when asked to utilize Atragon, the most powerful submarine ever created, for the benefit of the entire world—a realistic response from a World War II veteran who, as indicated through expository dialogue, dedicated his entire career to defending and later restoring the Japanese Empire.
Shinichi Sekizawa’s premise contains all the elements of a riveting adventure epic: a flying submarine that can drill through solid rock, a mysterious kingdom in possession of advanced technology, and a kaiju serpent with the ability to crush any seafaring vessels that dare challenge it. That being said, Atragon fails to sufficiently employ the most interesting aspects of its plot—no doubt a consequence of the many padded scenes featured in this film. Specifically, the search for Captain Jinguji takes an inordinate amount of time to resolve, preventing either Manda or the Mu Empire from receiving a proper introduction prior to the halfway mark.
Similar to Captain Jinguji, the Mu leaders reveal themselves after a period of hiding and make clear their intention to conquer all the nations of the world. Even in the face of certain defeat, however, the Empress of Mu refuses to surrender unconditionally, preferring to die an honorable death over capitulating to an enemy force—a commentary on the harrowing effects of unbridled patriotism. (Certain parallels can also be drawn between Japan’s downfall in World War II and that of the Mu Empire in Atragon, with both outcomes—one a historical fact and the other a product of fiction—resulting, at least in part, from policies of unchecked imperialism.
Atragon is an underwhelming, albeit mildly intriguing, effort from Gojira director Ishiro Honda. Casual viewers would therefore be wise to avoid this outing, the strong performances of which barely compensate for Sekizawa’s languid approach to character development.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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