Islands of Sanity #2: Kaiju, Or, the Love of Japanese Movie Monsters


As a small child, I reasoned that monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein ot the Wolfman were small enough to fit through my door-- giants like Godzilla or the Deadly Mantis might crush me, but they couldn't hurt me. "Kaiju" is Japanese for "wonderous/mysterious/mythical beast"-- the film genre represented by Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and others. Add "dai" to "kaiju" for "giant monsters" and you have the joys of a film like "Destroy All Monsters", wherein the menace from outer space is so great that Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra have to combine forces...

"There are pleasures, as Algernon Swinburne tells us, "that the vulgar herd can never understand." To be fair, Swinburne probably used this phrase to defend his own perversions; who among us has not? Robert Graves in "Good-bye to All That")was wise to Swinburne even as a child, but that is neither here nor there. No, sorry, that was Baudelaire who said it. Good story, anyway, and why waste good html? It may be impossible for the herd to understand the pleasure that fills us when an obviously fake monster wreaks havoc on a miniature Tokyo and the electrical wires come spitting down and the badly lip synched voice cries, "Run for your lives..."

The pleasure we take in kaiju spans generations, but somehow skips over the humorless. My Aunt Dorothy often remarks, "I just love those little Mothra Twins", while less intelligent relatives voice the cliched reaction, "Oh those are just stupid." Yes they are, but that's not the point. Blue Oyster Cult paid tribute in a song. A copy of the original "Godzilla" poster is hung behind my desk, as a kind of Rorschach test: some visitors express delight. Some, sadly, mutter "those movies are just stupid", usually in a voice one step away from "hyuk yuk yukkity yuk."

The recent Hollywood remake WAS stupid and deserved to fail.


These fumetti are taken from the charming fanblog
  • Neo Monster Island.


  • In October, Marvel Comics is offering a tongue in cheek revival of its goofiest Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko/ Stan Lee monsters from the days before Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. As Lee himself has said in an interview, the idea was to come up with a goofy name like Mootoo and then see what the artist drew. Culture snobs should remember the surrealist/dadaist game called "minotaur", in which artists each drew a different part of an imaginary beast. Our favorite at Ormondroyd's is Jack Kirby's Chinese dragon, Fin Fang Foom. When he pulls up the Great Wall of China and cracks it like a whip...

    The monsters of kaiju films are forces of nature, without motivation beyond warning us not to tamper in God's domain. The real world is full of little monsters who don't know they're monsters. They smash lives in the name of profit, patriotism, gamesmanship, power, religion, ephemeral causes-- and they are small enough in body and spirit to fit through doors.

    2 comments:

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    Anonymous said...

    Creatures and monsters are also located far away...so they are less likely to find US. Toyoko is on the far side of the world and China is on the opposite side of the earth.
    Bill Cosby as a child smeared jello all over the kitchen floor so an imaginary beating giant chicken heart didn't get him. What are we willing to do so things don't get us?

    Too bad that your Godzilla poster isn't always appreciated. I like the Mothra movies and stay up late to see them. Monster movies are one way by little brother and I bond.
    I agree that the little monsters are meddling with God's domain in the name of profit and that is why we have so much illness...Autism, children with cancer, unknown, undiagnosed neurology problems like muscle wasting diseases ---why? Here I blame run-off from the old mining practices, arsenic, and the heavy metals that are in the water.
    I digress, so back to work.
    I agree Japanese monsters are way cool!
    Smile, Dee Ann