We have approximately 20,000 Godzilla movies. Though they exist in three (soon four) distinguishable “eras” - Showa, Heisei, and Millennium - most of them are pretty similar. There are only two real outliers. The original, of course, offers a truly terrifying look at the horrible damage a giant monster (and metaphor) can do to our weak human shells and constructs. It lacks irony, humor, or anything as silly as two monsters wrestling with each other. Godzilla would later play a villain again, but never quite like this.
Its sequel, Godzilla Raids Again, also colors within the lines of a different series. Released only a year after Godzilla, Raids offers a sequel that feels blissfully unaware that more than a couple dozen films would follow its footsteps and create the tropes we all use to define the series. It carries and even creates aspects of those films that never go away, but it also does so in ways the series would never revisit, making it one of the most curious and singular of all the sequels.
First off, the Godzilla in Godzilla Raids Again, isn’t even Godzilla. Whether you see a version that calls him by that name or instead calls him “Gigantis,” he is a different creature than the Godzilla that terrorized Tokyo in the original. That guy is still dead. This is just another of his species.
Godzilla was a success, but the creature was apparently not iconic enough to keep filmmakers from messing with him in ways no one would dream of now. He looks different, thanks mostly to a beautifully unattractive posse of gross snaggleteeth jutting out of his face. He has a different roar. His atomic breath attack is really more of an aerosol spray that burns things. Some aspects remain the same, but you still have to squint to see the Godzilla in there.
Godzilla Raids Again introduces the “vs” aspect of the series that we all now love and expect. His first foe is a gigantic anklyosaurus named Anguirus. Right off the bat, Anguirus’ status as a quadruped makes him an interesting enemy. Godzilla and Anguirus don’t really have any reason to fight each other. They just hate one another’s guts. In fact, we meet them mid-fight eight minutes into the movie. They apparently hated each other millions of years ago before going into hibernation, and the moment they awoke (thanks to a hydrogen bomb), they just started going at it again.
Giant monster fights are a series mainstay, but Raids does it differently than the rest of the films would. Godzilla and Anguirus don’t partake in silly wrestling moves or cool attacks. They just go at each other in the sloppiest way possible. Accentuating this, the fight scenes are under-cranked slightly. Speeding them up like this somehow makes the fights look more interesting, brutal, and weirdly animalistic than we’d ever see again. And when Godzilla finally takes Anguirus out (with a big-ass bite to the neck), it’s actually bloody.
The film’s narrative focuses mostly on pilot Shoichi Tsukioka who, along with fellow pilot Koji Kobayashi, are the first to see and report New Godzilla and Anguirus beating the shit out of each other. Shoichi narrates the film, which automatically makes it seem out of step with the rest of the series. Oddly enough, actor Takashi Shimura reprises his role from the original film. That too, is strange. Godzilla Raids Again has very little in common with its predecessor tonally, yet it goes out of its way to maintain this type of continuity.
Godzilla Raids Again doesn’t know the rules of being a Godzilla movie because many had not yet been invented. It creates a big one (the fights), but often goes off on its own, merry way, making it something of a charming gem. It’s short, simple, and has Anguirus, one of my favorites. It also has one of the best sequel names ever. That right there should make it an all-timer.