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Kaiju Godzilla

Kaiju Japanese Film Genre

Japanese pop culture has its own distinct characteristics that make it hugely appealing. For one, it celebrates modern trends and perceptions of the general populace while staying connected with traditional art forms. Not only that, but pop culture in Japan is so colorful, eclectic, and unique that it has attracted a global following and has seeped into other countries’ cultural consciousness. This also goes for anime, manga, j-pop and monster or kaiju movies!

Kaiju, literally meaning ‘strange beast’, is a Japanese genre of films and television featuring giant monsters. It is a subgenre of tokusatsu or ‘special filming’ entertainment. Kaiju can also mean the actual giant monsters themselves which are almost always depicted as battling other monsters or the military and attacking major cities.

Godzilla posterThe 1954 film Godzilla is usually considered to be the first kaiju film. Characters in kaiju films are oftentimes metaphorical in nature. A classic example would be the vision of art director of Godzilla, Akira Watanabe, who combined some aspects of the alligator, Iguanodon, Stegosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus and turned it into a monstrous fire-breathing creature that mutated from the atomic bombs dropped in Japan to end World War II. To show the effects of the bombing, the appearance of Godzilla also showed visible signs of scarring in the texture of its skin having keloid scars as seen in many of the Hiroshima survivors. Thus, Gojira began as something of a metaphor for the pain, rage, and devastation visited on the Japanese people. Godzilla representing nuclear weapons

Godzilla may be the most popular kaiju film monster rebooted several times in Hollywood, but there are other kaiju movies worth being discovered. Check them out!

Gappa: The Triphibian Monster (1967)

Gappa or Daikyojū Gappa, literally meaning ‘Giant Beast Gappa’, released in 1967 and directed by Huruyasu Noguchi. The film is about a group of Japanese reporters who discovers a baby monster called Gappa on Obelisk Island. The reporters place the creature in a cage and take it with them to Japan where it instantly becomes a media sensation much to the disdain of the natives of the island and Gappa’s parents. The monster’s parents head on over to Japan to look for their child turning the hunt into total chaos.

The Magic Serpent (1966)

The Magic Serpent or Kairyū daikessen, literally meaning  ’Decisive Battle of the Giant Magic Dragon’, is a 1966 film directed by Tetsuuya Yamanochi and produced and distributed by Toei Company. It’s a thrilling movie with ninjas and giant monsters combining kaiju and ninja movie techniques. The evil ninja Orochimaru kills the peaceful Lord Ogata and his family, taking the lord’s castle for his own. The young son of Ogata, Ikazuchi-Maru escapes with the help of a magical hermit, Dojin Hiki, who trains the young boy in the ninja ways as well as toad magic.

The War of The Gargantuas (1966)

The War of the Gargantuas or Furankenshutain no Kaijū: Sanda tai Gaira, literally meaning ’Frankenstein’s Monsters: Sanda vs. Gaira’), released in 1966, is a film directed by Ishirō Honda, with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya. It is referred to as a quasi–sequel” to Frankenstein Conquers the World. The film was made in collaboration between Japanese and Americans as well as Toho co., Ltd and Henry G. Saperstein. In the film, scientists investigate the sudden appearance of two giant hairy humanoid monsters that ends in an epic battle in Tokyo!

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Read all about Japanese immersion learning and studying abroad. Check out our eZasshi archives for more articles!