I grew up with Gojira…Godzilla. Not the new versions with the weeny head… the real Kaiju (Giant Monster in Japanese). The one with character. Yeah he was really just a guy in a rubber suit. But Ishiro Honda and Toho Studios knew a thing or two about kaiju and they knew how to get you into his story and feel for the character. He was my hero. And yes, I have a collection of little (and big) Gojiras sitting on the hearth holding counsel with Smaug…did I mention I have a thing for giant lizards?
My other hero was Kikaida, a superhero that I fell in love with long before Power Rangers became a thing. he changed from Jiro, the lone wandering dude with a guitar, into a fighting robot (Change! Switch On! One! Two! Three!) when Dr. Gill’s evil robots showed up to harass his friend Mitsuko, and Masaru, her younger brother. I had a Kikaida doll I got for Christmas from Hakubundo, the Japanese stationery store I got to go to once a year before school started to get supplies. He was a foot tall, half red and half blue plastic with robot bits painted on. He was AWESOME!
In Kailua at that time (Oahu, not Kailua Kona on the Big Island), the television signal had to come over the Pali (a cliff in the Ko’olau mountains that divides the island in two) on power lines to get to us, and the signal wasn’t that strong. We usually only had two channels: PBS, so I got my Sesame Street and my Electric company (and if Mom and Dad were home, nature and history shows), and the Japanese channel, KIKU (Nihongo Terebi Desu!).
KIKU was da bomb. All the best shows (Speed Racer, Princess Knight, Captain Harlock, Candy-Candy, Jakka Dengeki Tai), plus an added educational bonus. My reading scores soared from learning to read by the subtitles that flashed by super fast, especially during a fight scene! The next day, we would all play Kikaida or Gojira in the yards fronting our little cul-de-sac, stomping on the ground to destroy imaginary cities made of dirt, and fighting off hoards of evil minions (not the cute yellow ones of course…they hadn’t reached us yet).
This nostalgia for the two channel days will hopefully go a ways to explain why Port Liberty, the coastal town where my cozy mysteries take place, has two resident kaiju that hang out in the bay (I’ll introduce you to them as these posts go on) , and why the traditions and events of Port Liberty mirror the place and time that I grew up with. That Kailua doesn’t exist anymore. Like they say, you can never really go home again. But between the kaiju, the giant robots, and the community, Port Liberty feels like home to me. If you can’t go back, you can bring it back to life in another way.