Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, February 20, 2012
      ( 2/20/2012 02:32:00 PM ) Bill S.  

”SCIENCE ISN’T GOING TO DO ANY GOOD AGAINST THAT THING.” A sci-fi valentine to what Frank Zappa once called “cheepnis,” Hiroshi Yamamoto’s MM9 (Haika Soru) posits a world in which giant creature attacks are so common in Japan that there’s a special government agency designed to counter ‘em. Comprised of five short stories focusing on the adventures of the Meteorological Agency’s Monsterological Measures Department (MMD), MM9 provides an amusing read for anyone who has fond memories of watching a translucent Glenn Manning stomping through the Vegas Strip or any number of rubber suited beasties battling each other on a barren Japanese landscape.

The monsters (a.k.a. kaiju) battled by the stalwart members of the MMD range from a hive mind mass of sea creatures to a monstrous mandrake to a gargantuan little girl and a multi-headed Ghidrah-like creature. Yamamoto gets much mileage out of blending natural disaster techspeak (the title refers to a “Monster Magnitude” scale which works much as similar ones do for earthquakes) with a quasi-mythological explanation for monsters that scientifically speaking should be able to motorvate across the country. This approach allows him to write around those science-minded spoilsports who delight in pointing out how the giant ants in Them, for instance, would collapse under their own weight in “real life.”

The MMD’s crew of plucky monster handlers prove largely indistinguishable save for scrappy heroine Sakura Fujisawa, who establishes a unique rapport with the giant-sized li’l girl Princess and who also has a connection to a mysterious astrophysicist lurking in the background. Their fights against the imaginative collection of kaiju are peppered with equal parts gleeful destruction and scenes of serious types spouting sci-fi gobble-de-gook -- much like the book’s movie predecessors. Yamamoto presents it all with a pulpish straight face, though he’s not above playfully sneaking in refs to such beloved drive-in fare as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (a sea monster named Ray after fx master Ray Harryhausen) or the giant grasshopper epic Beginning of the End, folding in these storylines as part of a shared history of world-wide kaiju attacks.

Cheepnis, as any monster lover knows, is a global phenom.

(First published on Blogcritics.)


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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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