“The Monster of Homework, Shukra…”
The drawing hung from a clothing line that ran the entire length of Gengo’s studio. It wasn’t his best work, but he couldn’t help but feel proud of having completed it so quickly. For such a rushed piece, it had actually turned out rather well.
Shukra was, to put it mildly, a strange-looking creature. But it was this strangeness that had first attracted Gengo to the idea of the character. He’d been doodling variations of it for practically his whole life, ever since his early school days. Back then, homework really was a terrifying daikaiju, an oppressive force that couldn’t be escaped. Gengo’s revenge, however passive-aggressive it may have been, was to give that oppression form through his art.
The end result was a bizarre and oddly nightmarish creation. Shukra – so named for the divine guru of Indian myth – stood at an imposing 50 meters in height, its ovular, almost egg-shaped purple body balanced on two human-like legs. 20 insectoid arms sprouted from holes scattered across its body, each tipped by claws wielding common school paraphernalia: a pencil, an abacus, a measuring triangle, a pen and ink, wads of paper, and several textbooks. The monster’s head was almost human, but thanks to its giant cranium, wide ears, and squashed face, it was exaggerated beyond anything natural. Its eyes were hidden behind kaleidoscopic spectacles, and unsettling wisps of hair grew from its scalp. Instead of a deadly radioactive ray, an unending scroll of homework paper shot from its mouth.
Gengo knew it was unusual, maybe even comical. But if the children of 1972 Japan were at all similar to how he’d been as a child, he knew they’d understand the point.
And if they didn’t, he was sure they’d sympathize with the idea behind his other new monster…
“The Monster of Strict Mothers, Mamagon…”
It was this monster that he was currently working on. The illustration was nearly complete, with only a few extra scales and bumps to add before hanging it up next to Shukra. As he continued working, Gengo found himself somehow more satisfied with this drawing when compared to his first; the lines were more refined, the colors more eye-catching. It wasn’t that he preferred this character to Shukra, but in terms of delivering a quality piece to his new employers, he felt far more confident about this depiction of his second creation.
Mamagon was another creature that had dwelled in Gengo’s mind for many years. Unlike Shukra, however, this kaiju wasn’t entirely derived from personal childhood events. Sure, his own mother had been strict to a point, but certainly not at the level of other mothers he had known. In his younger days, many of his school friends would tell him harrowing tales of social restrictions, high academic expectations, and even crushed creative dreams. And if these things had been happening during his childhood, it was surely happening to a little boy or girl at that very moment.
The character of Mamagon had emerged in the margins of school notebooks and on playground asphalt, and existed mostly as a joke between Gengo and his friends. No two drawings of the monster ever looked the same, and often took on likenesses inspired by a particular friend’s mother. In that way, Mamagon had never really been a completely original character. Even the name had come from somewhere else, perhaps a joke on TV or somewhere similar. Through drawing her over and over again, Gengo had found a way to provide some fun, even catharsis, for friends who struggled with overbearing maternal figures.
Now, all these years later, Gengo naively hoped that he could do it again.
The most difficult part of drawing the latest iteration of Mamagon had been nailing down a definitive design. After so many years of simply drawing vague kaiju with the “Mamagon” name, it had been a challenge to find the right balance between those original ideas and new, less-specific design features that any child could recognize as similar to their own strict mother. When inspiration had finally come, the drawing had materialized fairly quickly. And as he continued to put the finishing touches on it, Gengo felt both relieved and, as before, legitimately proud.
Mamagon’s final look was far more traditional for a daikaiju than Shukra’s was. The monster had a vaguely human shape with reptilian features, not unlike Godzilla himself. Despite this, Gengo’s largest source of inspiration had been another monster: the burrowing creature known as Baragon. This influence was clearly evident in the horn and large, flappy ears that accented Mamagon’s appropriately-feminine face. Despite her monstrous look, which also featured a long tail, sharp claws, and a row of spines that ran up her back, Mamagon was clearly female. Her eyes were wide with heavy lashes, and her lips were almost comically large and red. Gengo had also added the slightest hint of a bosom, and had kept her colors mostly limited to delicate whites and light browns.
The most eye-catching part of her design was undoubtedly her chest and midsection, which featured an almost garish white-and-red checkerboard pattern. This was the element that Gengo felt really tied the entire character together, and the part of her design that he had enjoyed illustrating the most.
He only hoped that its source of inspiration wouldn’t kick his ass when she found out.
It was this thought that momentarily snapped Gengo out of his artistic focus. For the briefest of seconds, he forgot where he was, what he was doing, and who he was doing it for. It was the first bit of levity he’d felt in over half a day.
He had largely been on creative autopilot for the last 24 hours. When he had returned home after his meeting at World Children’s Land, he’d immediately sat at his drafting table and begun sketching. The drive home had given him time to shake off the feeling of unease the meeting had left him with, and subsequently replace it with motivation and legitimate excitement.
And there was plenty to be excited about. For the first time in his life, he was being payed to create. He had literally been hired on the spot, asked to submit his monsters to an organization that wanted to share them with the world. The possibilities were almost as overwhelming to Gengo as they were invigorating.
As he’d continued to work, those possibilities had continued to grow in his mind. If his designs were ultimately accepted, they’d be implemented into the park upon its completion. Children from around Japan – maybe even the world – would see them. Gengo saw fantastic images in his head, images of massive Shukra and Mamagon statues and rows of vinyl toys. Performers in mascot suits dancing before an audience of excited children. Families buying the monsters’ likenesses on shirts and masks, wearing them to school or work and making their friends jealous.
It had been a lot for Gengo to consider. Could his monsters become famous, even iconic? Could they ever rise to the popularity of real monsters like Mothra, or Anguirus, or even Godzilla himself? Was all this success, all this potential, just a few clever illustrations away?
Gengo honestly didn’t know. But the more he’d continued thinking and working through the evening and into the next morning, the more his unease had begun to return.
It was all, somehow, too good to be true. It seemed legitimate; the entire World Children’s Land operation seemed to be exactly what it appeared.
But it wasn’t.
Something wasn’t right. Something was… off.
It hadn’t taken long for Gengo’s train of thought to shift back to this unsettling realization. No amount of hype or hope could distract him from how… off the entire situation felt.
As he’d continued to draw and re-draw his monsters, his mind had begun running through everything he’d seen and heard during his time at the construction site. The speed at which everything was being constructed, the bizarre architecture and lack of personnel, the undeniable oddness of the Godzilla Tower itself…
And then there was Kubota, his new boss. He’d seemed amiable enough, obviously dedicated to whatever he hoped to accomplish with the project. But again, something about him had been off. His mannerisms were oddly perfect – almost artificial – in their execution. He seemed contradictory in his interactions with Gengo: aloof yet focused, approachable yet stern and direct. And then there was his odd tendency to suddenly switch to speaking certain words in English. It shouldn’t have been all that strange, but something about it was oddly unsettling.
In fact, unsettling was the perfect word Gengo could use to describe both Kubota and World Children’s Land. It wasn’t so much a large number of puzzling red flags, but rather the sum of many small anachronisms that had continued to make Gango so uncomfortable.
As the hours passed and each illustration neared completion, that discomfort had only continued to grow. Now, as Gengo added the final bumps and ridges to Mamagon’s scaly hide, he found himself more frustrated than he had been in recent memory. His emotions were as contradictory as World Children’s Land itself, and for the first time in his life, creating monsters seemed a hollow and joyless task.
“Congratulations! I heard you got the job! I’m proud of you!”
Gengo had to admit, he’d been waiting to hear Tomoko say those words for a very long time. But as he continued to draw, he found they gave him no peace.
Tomoko had walked into his studio just a few seconds earlier, momentarily distracting Gengo from his dour thoughts. If she’d visited a day earlier, Gengo might’ve shared her enthusiasm. But after nearly a full day of drawing and dwelling on the unsettling nature of his new job, he felt that nothing could fully cheer him up.
Despite this, he was still glad to hear Tomoko’s approval. At least, he thought to himself, one of us is excited about this situation.
“I know it’s a big deal,” he responded without looking up from his Mamagon drawing. “But if I’m being honest, I just can’t stand my new boss.”
He knew this was a risk to admit to Tomoko. But he hoped that her excitement – and the fact that he actually landed the job – would dissuade her from any potential violence. Besides, he’d been alone with his thoughts for nearly a full day. He needed to get some of his concerns off of his chest, or risk losing his mind before even getting his first paycheck.
“You know you can’t afford to be fussy about where you work,” she retorted.
Gengo sighed, still adding scales to his illustrated monster. “I know, but I’m really not excited about this job.”
“Gen-san…” Tomoko had seated herself on Gengo’s cot in the corner of the room. “What’s your problem with this place? They seem to like you, and they’re paying you pretty well, too.”
“It’s not that,” Gengo replied, spinning his chair away from his drafting table and toward Tomoko. “It’s hard to explain, but… it’s like the place is entirely empty of feeling.”
“Well, you’ve never exactly been the sensitive type,” Tomoko replied, her patience obviously starting to wear thin. “And you certainly can’t afford to be sensitive now. What exactly is it about this place that you don’t like?”
Gengo spun back around toward his drawing, a single word escaping his lips as he resumed his work.
After a moment of silence, Gengo heard the sound of Tomoko’s lighter snap closed and smelled the scent of her cigarettes in the air.
“That’s right,” Gengo replied. “That’s all he talked about during our meeting. Perfect peace…”
“Seems like a nice thing to me.”
As Tomoko finished her reply, Gengo leaned back in his chair. His eyes scanned his Mamagon illustration carefully, looking for any spots that were lacking in detail. When he didn’t find any, he rose from his seat, taking the drawing with him.
He knew when it was best to drop a discussion with Tomoko, and this was one of those times. He knew how ungrateful he must’ve sounded. Here he was, a struggling artist who had just landed a major gig with a big company. Yet all he could focus on was his discomfort with said company, how he didn’t like his boss, and how a philosophy of “perfect peace” somehow bothered him.
Tomoko was right: there was nothing inherently wrong with talking about wanting peace on Earth. It was, after all, a nice ideal. Perhaps one day he could articulate to Tomoko just how strange the entire situation was, and why it made him uncomfortable.
But today was not that day.
As he reached for one of the clips hanging from his illustration-laden clothes line, Tomoko stood up behind him and quickly walked over to see his latest work.
“What’ve you been working one?
“Drawings that the boss wants ready for tomorrow,” he replied as he clipped his latest drawing to the line.
“I know that,” she said. “But what are they?”
“New monsters. Shukra and Mamagon.”
Tomoko paused, looking at the illustration Gengo had just hung,
Before Gengo could react, Tomoko reached for the illustration and swiftly unclipped it from the line. She brought the image close to her face, staring at it in silence.
By the time Gengo’s tired brain realized what had caught her eye, it was too late.
After a few seconds of analyzing the drawing, her eyes darted toward Gengo, a smug smile appearing on her face. She then lifted the illustration, holding it beside her.
“Tell me, is this supposed to resemble someone?”
Gengo cleared his throat, doing his best to suppress a smile. Perhaps giving Mamagon Tomoko’s white-and-red checkered shirt hadn’t been one of his more subtle artistic moments, but it had definitely been a cathartic one.
Before he could retreat out of Tomoko’s reach, the giggling artist suddenly saw his drawing thrust into his face and smacked against his forehead.
“You made me a monster!”
Gengo could no longer hold back his laughter. After a day of stress, hard work, and uncertainty, he was happy again.