On May 7th the last surviving director of the Showa Godzilla series, Yoshimitsu Banno, passed away at 86. Banno is best known for directing the still controversial Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) as well as being an executive producer on Legendary Pictures' Godzilla (2014) reboot.
Banno joined Toho in 1955 and worked closely with many of Japanese cinema's greats, including Mikio Naruse (Floating Clouds ) and Eiji Tsuburaya (Special Effects Director of Godzilla ).  He also served as Akira Kurosawa's assistant director on several films including Throne of Blood (1957) and Hidden Fortress (1958). 
In 1970 Banno made his directorial debut with Birth of the Japanese Islands.  A staged publicity event for Japanese Islands impressed Godzilla series producer Tomoyuki Tanaka so that he was offered the director's chair for Godzilla vs. Hedorah. 
Although fan consensus is certainly split, no one can deny that Banno's idiosyncratic visual style makes Godzilla vs. Hedorah one of the most unique films in the series. The entry's merits and distinct visual cues are still widely discussed today, with some critics praising it as a high point--Others not so much. Tomoyuki Tanaka was of the latter opinion. 
Irate over the final product, Tanaka forbade Banno to direct a Godzilla film again.  He would later assistant direct/co-write Toho's Prophecies of Nostradamus (1974) and find work for television productions. 
In 2000 Banno opened his company Advanced Audiovisual Productions, specializing in 70mm, IMAX productions. However, his passion for Godzilla never died. After 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars he was given the rights to produce his own IMAX Godzilla short, Godzilla 3D to the MAX. The movie would be a subtle remake of Godzilla vs. Hedorah and include overt references to 9/11. Godzilla was to fight another pollutant beast known as Deathla. 
Banno's team attempted to partner with other production companies, seeking funding to produce a story that was constantly in flux. (Likely to make it more appealing for investors.) American effects company Kerner Productions, aka, Kerner Optical, was on board to produce the film, but was unable to secure funding.  Banno and Kerner's American producers went to Legendary Pictures for backing. Although Legendary wasn't interested in Banno's movie, they were intrigued by the idea of creating their own. 
Thus, what is now known to fans as the "Monsterverse" was born and Banno was credited as an executive producer on the 2014 Godzilla. The official Legendary Pictures twitter paid tribute to the filmmaker following his death.
Although he may have been inadvertently responsible for bringing Godzilla back from a 10 year hiatus, Yoshimitsu Banno was still not satisfied. In November of 2013 he claimed he still had every intention of making a sequel to Godzilla vs. Hedorah. Regrettably, the film will never be made. 
With love, thoughts and prayers, we wish Banno's friends and loved ones the very best.
Armand's Rancho Del Ceilo - Yoshimitsu Banno, RIP
Dead Central - Rest in Peace: Yoshimitsu Banno
 Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the "Big G" - Ryfle, Steve, pg. 163
 A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series, 2nd Ed. - Kalat, David, pg. 117, 118, 122
 Sci-Fi Japan - The Long Evolution of Godzilla 3-D - Aiken, Keith; Godziszewski
 Joe for America - Amazing Facts About Godzilla - Conover, Rodney Lee
 Cosmic Book News - Hedorah Confirmed for Godzilla 2014 Movie & Smog Monster Sequel?! - McGloin, Matt
Godzilla fas looking to discover more about the Godzilla sequel King of the Monsters are encouraged to join in the Godzilla Movies forum - a dedicated community of Godzilla movie and Monsterverse fans.
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