TOKYO -- The first Japanese-made Godzilla flick in over a decade is all about realism -- except for the massive monster that emerges from Tokyo Bay.
In its first month in Japanese cinemas, "Shin Godzilla" raked in over 5.3 billion yen ($51.1 million), making it the most successful domestic live-action film so far this year. The last Godzilla movie shot in Japan, 2004's "Godzilla Final Wars," made a mere 1.26 billion yen. Between the two releases, only Hollywood brought the beast to the big screen.
It was up to writer/director Hideaki Anno, the man behind the hit animation "Neon Genesis Evangelion," to breathe some atomic fire back into the homegrown franchise. Completely excluding romance -- almost an obligatory element in commercial Japanese films these days -- Anno made a movie that elicits a different sort of emotional reaction in audiences.
One late-August night, more than 400 women packed a theater in Tokyo's Shinjuku district. Tickets for the ladies-only screening sold out in just three minutes. For many, it was their fourth or fifth viewing.
"Heisha!" some women yelled as the reptilian star stomped through the capital. Cries of "Onsha!" rang out in the dark. These viewers simply could not contain their excitement -- or perhaps it was catharsis -- as Godzilla took out the buildings of their companies (heisha) and those of their clients (onsha).
"I think the building in Shimbashi where I work was smashed," a 25-year-old said afterward, referring to a Tokyo business district. She was wearing a costume of a building.
A woman in her 40s said, "At first I was reluctant to watch a monster movie, but they did a great job tying together daily life with the spectacle of Godzilla."
One of the taglines for the movie, which has been given the English title "Godzilla Resurgence," is "reality vs. fiction."
"Godzilla is the biggest fiction of all, so we wanted to make everything else as realistic as possible," said Akihiro Yamauchi, an executive producer at Toho, the distributor.
The movie delves into the details of how authorities might respond if a monster decided to make Tokyo its personal playground. For advice, the filmmakers turned to Japan's Self-Defense Forces, along with government officials and politicians -- including Yuriko Koike, the new Tokyo governor and a former defense minister.