The opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020 made a massive impact when seemingly out of nowhere a rogue planet appeared in the sky over the Olympic stadium. A shimmering ring gate made of hundreds of drones had morphed into a slowly rotating Earth, like something straight out of a sci-fi movie.
In tribute to the drone-made spectacle, here are five Japanese movies or TV shows featuring rogue sky objects appearing in the sky, mostly over Tokyo. The list includes the first colour Japanese sci-fi movie ever made, a classic from 1956. The resolution of some may not be great but it never detracts from the drama of these superbly farfetched films.
Fish Story (2009). “The story of my solitude, if my solitude were a fish.” Before the Sex Pistols was Gekirin, a Japanese punk band and its only album, Fish Story, with lyrics lifted from a book mistranslated in 1952. It would never sell and the band was dropped, fading into obscurity. Fast forward, hours before a comet is to become the greatest hit of 2012, a solitary record shop remains open in Tokyo. The quietly defiant owner is playing one of the last surviving copies of Fish Story to one the last remaining customers in the city. Unknown to everyone, a series of chance events over the last 60 years has pre-determined the role that Fish Story will play in the impending catastrophe. How a silent gap in a song that never sold can save the planet. Trailer | Film Archive | Amazon
Gorath (1962) aka Yōsei Gorasu (1962) translated as Ominous Star Gorath. A rogue star threatens to destroy the Solar System in a gravitational close encounter. In an ambitious global collaboration, massive rocket thrusters are installed at the South Pole to move Earth far enough away from the star’s influence — then move it back when the danger has passed. But the success of the project is threatened by a series of environmental catastrophes created by the star’s intense gravitational pull — and then the reawakening of Kaguma, a giant prehistoric walrus that inhabits the South Pole. Trailer | Film Archive | Amazon | YouTube (bits)
Your Name (2016) aka Kimi no Na wa (2016) translated as Your Name Is? An animated tale of two teenagers whose fates are intertwined in space and time — linked to a long-period comet, some kuchikamisake and the meaning of kawatare-doki. A girl living in Itomori, and a boy living in Tokyo three years in her future, switch lives triggered by their dreams. They communicate via notes saved on each other’s smartphone, but he never hears from her again in his timeline after a long-period comet makes a close approach in hers. Tracking down her village, he finds a succession of impact craters formed by fragments of the comet that splintered off when it returned every 1,200 years. Like the twists and turns of the braided cords the girl has been taught by her elders to weave, wonderful things take shape when two threads converge. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
Warning from Space (1956) aka Uchūjin Tokyo ni arawaru (1956) translated as Spacemen Appear in Tokyo. “Whatever it is, it isn’t a meteor, I’m sure of that.” A classic of Japanese cinema with rogue objects showing up everywhere: UFOs spotted in the sky over Tokyo and monstrous starfish turning up in the strangest of places. They come from Paira, a planet that co-orbits with Earth on the other side of Sun, with a warning of impending disaster. When no-one understands them, they adopt human form to get their message across. Having observed Earth for thousands of years from a space station disguised as an asteroid, now they have come to warn Tokyo that a rogue planet will pass through the Solar System and destroy both their planets. Combining Earth’s stockpiles of atomic weapons might just save the worlds. Trailer | Watch UK | Watch US
One Punch Man (2015). S1, Ep 7: “The Ultimate Disciple” — or the one where Saitama punches the lights out of a meteor. This is a manga comic that made it onto the screen. A colossal meteor is heading for City-Z. The impact hazard is 6 to 9 on the Torino scale, meaning impact is a dead cert — and the threat level is Dragon, meaning other cities will be destroyed as well. A number of superheroes respond to the emergency but the object keeps on coming, unaffected by their barrage of missiles and laser blasters. Enter superhero Saitama, the one punch man. He shatters the object with a single punch. It doesn’t stop the fragments from devastating the city but it does mean no-one dies. Watch UK | Watch US
Read the complete list: An A-to-Z of Every Asteroid and Comet Impact Movie and TV Drama Ever Made.
Fair Dealing and Fair Use. All images shown in this article Rogue Sky Objects in Japanese Cinema were selected to support the commentary and each image has been credited appropriately. I believe this constitutes a fair dealing or fair use of any such copyrighted material, but suffice to say if any copyright holder should want an image removed, please make contact using the email address below and the image will be removed. The featured image is a composite of the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo and the Intel drone globe over the Olympic stadium, both images from BBC televised footage of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony.