Gamera the Brave (original title: Chīsaki Yūsha Tachi ～Gamera～ which translates to: Little Braves: Gamera) is a 2006 film and the fourth Gamera film to be released in the Heisei era. With no relation to the previous three films, it was intended as a full reboot of the franchise. It is directed by Ryuta Tasaki (Power Rangers, Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon) with the screenplay by Yukari Tatsui.
The plot begins in the 1970s, with Gamera sacrificing himself to save a village from a swarm of Gyaos. The plot then moves forward about thirty years or so and shifts focus onto a young boy named Toru as he finds and raises a small turtle named Toto, who is actually a baby Gamera. Meanwhile, a giant monster named Zedus appears and begins eating people, and Toto grows ever larger and stronger. Eventually, the two monsters fight, but Toto is badly injured and Zedus is only temporarily deterred. In the end, though, Toto (now a fully grown Gamera) engages Zedus in another battle and emerges victorious.
The film was released on April 29, 2006. Despite a positive reception from critics and fans, a sequel never materialized and the franchise once again fell into a period of hibernation that wouldn't be ended this time until 2015.
This film contains examples of the following:
- Age Cut: Kousuke is shown as a young boy witnessing Gamera's final battle with the Gyaos in 1973, with a dissolve cut to 2006 where he is standing in the same spot remembering; only now he's a grown man with a child of his own.
- Batman in My Basement: Toru initially keeps a baby Toto hidden from his father in his room. After Toto grows too large to be hidden, he moves him to a cottage near his town.
- Behemoth Battle: The opening scene has Gamera facing off against a flock of Gyaos before he self-destructs. Later on, the film has Toto and Zedus face off multiple times.
- Big Bad: The maneating Sea Monster Zedus is the main antagonist of the film.
- Big Damn Heroes: Toto conveniently crashing into Zedus before the latter could devour Toru's Dad and Katsuya.
- Bittersweet Ending: Zedus is defeated, Mai recovers and Toto is free to continue his father's legacy of protecting Earth; but Toto and Toru have to separate as Toto is set free, with Toru tearfully bidding goodbye to his pet as he flies into the horizon.
- A Boy and His X: Toru and Toto. Their bond is a plot point of the film
- Breath Weapon: Initially, Toto can only burp little bursts of fire, but by the end of the movie he can launch full-powered fireballs.
- Combat Tentacles: Zedus can extend his tongue to great lengths and repeatedly uses it to impale Toto or destroys things out of his reach.
- Continuity Reboot: A fairly good one. Kaiju were prevalent in the 1960s to 1970s but haven't been since since, and everyone was familiar with Gamera and the gyaos from the opening scene which implies a version of events similar to the Showa series happened with some Heisei influence. However no kaiju have been seen in the 30 years since, leading to a Japan unprepared for Zedus.
- Forgot About His Powers: Toto doesn't use his fire breath or fly once during his climactic fight with Zedus until Toru gets the red stone to him... Despite being able to do both of those things ever since he was a itty bitty newborn pet turtle at the start of the movie. In fact, his fire breath is how Toto first overcomes Zedus when they're fighting on the bridge earlier in the movie, making his refusal or inability to do so during the final battle even more puzzling.
- Giant Flyer: Toto. Like all other Gameras. Though he initially can only messily float.
- Gratuitous English: Toru spends much of the film wearing a t-shirt that reads, in large bold letters, "A BANG UP WORK." The song played over the end credits, "Eternal Love" by the singer, mink, also scatters numerous English words and phrases throughout its lyrics.
- Heroic Sacrifice: The adult Gamera in the prologue blows himself up to kill several attacking Gyaos. The possibility of Toto doing this to stop Zedus is also a fairly major plot point.
- Ill Girl: Mai Nishio, Toru's neighbor, who requires a heart operation and even after it remains in a bed while recovering from her illness and operation.
- Knight of Cerebus: Zedus. The film keeps a light-hearted tone for most of the first act, but the second Zedus enters the story, everything goes to hell and the film takes higher stakes as everyone rushes to empower Toto so he can become powerful enough to defeat the Kaiju.
- Lighter and Softer: More optimistic than the Heisei series, but the movie opens with adult Gamera's death, how the death of his mother impacted Toru's life, and the people devoured by Zedus. Still there aren't any human antagonists, the governmental body responsible for the dark lab studying monsters is actually trying to help Toto, and all the protagonists live with better lives at the end even if Toto and Toru tearfully part ways after Zedus' defeat.
- Missing Mom: Miyuki Aizawa had died in a car crash, which has made Toru fairly cynical.
- Mythology Gag: While exploring Kousuke Aizawa's kitchen, Toto is nearly hit by a dropped knife and breathes fire on it in retaliation. The knife is a reference to the knife-headed monster Guiron, from the Showa era.
- Plot-Relevant Age-Up: In the space of a week, Toto grows from a cute little turtle to a cute house-sized turtle.
- Reconstruction: Of the lighter elements of the franchise largely absent in the later entries in the Heisei trilogy. It returns to the Showa era's focus on children, but combines it with the Heisei era's tone and good writing.
- Revisiting the Roots: This film harkens back to the classic Showa Era films' roots with a more kid-focused adventure with a major lighthearted feeling, that said it still keeps a lot of the Heisei's era tone and seriousness in regards to the monster and mysticism involved.
- Sea Monster: Zedus, the film's Big Bad, who starts out destroying boats and fishing crew ships at sea before arriving on the mainland to continue his carnage there. The first scene which foreshadows him is rather Jaws-esque with him not being shown at all.
- Sgt. Frog - Toru has to remain polite to Mai in order to borrow issues from her, in fact the ones shown are actually Vol. 13 which hadn't been publically published at the time, with the director being given an early access to it per request to the manga's creator, Mine Yoshizaki.
- In something of a hat-tip to Godzilla, the pattern on Gamera's plastron glows red when he charges up his fire ball.
- In Toru's room, figures of Kamen Riders Knight and Ouja can be seen on his shelf.
- Spiritual Successor: While it is a Continuity Reboot, off mentions of past events and and the tie-in manga imply some version of the Showa Gamera series, or at least some of the movies, happened. Clues include references to Gamera being well known as a protector of mankind, multiple Showa kaiju being named in tie-in novels, and people being very familiar with what kaiju are. One could then tale The Brave as a distant sequel to that era.
- Stock Sound Effects: Toto's roars are recycled from the 1976 King Kong.
- They Would Cut You Up: Inverted. The government captures the injured juvenile Toto, but they do it with the express intent of patching him up from his fight with Zedus and trying to ensure he grows to full strength since they know Gamera is a benevolent kaiju.
- Those Two Guys: Ishimaru and Katsuya, Toru's friends who are almost always never seen apart from each other.
- To Serve Man: Zedus is a maneater, and is shown consuming humans onscreen during his physical entrance.