You know Gamera and Mothra and Rodan and Kumonga, Hedora and Megalon and Destoroyah and Gigan, but do you recall the most famous Kaiju of them all. GODZILLA! ( I certainly hope you sang that in your head to the tune of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer!) Lets talk Kaiju!
I discussed in the post The Happening...No not that one! about Godzilla a bit, and Godzilla is the most famous of them all. He was my introduction into the world of Kaiju as a young child. While most kids were searching for cartoons on Saturday mornings, I was watching Godzilla destroy Tokoyo and save Tokoyo. I discussed in the Happening post how Godzilla went from the villain to the hero back to the villain and back, in the most current iteration, to the hero. Godzilla is not only huge which in my opinion is his most important ability. You can bet your pretty pink knickers if I were that huge, I would be doing what I want and squishing a few cities on my way! But Godzilla also had Atomic Breath. We have seen this shown over the years as different from the focused stream of angry yellow flames to the white hot energy zapping ray. Godzilla was originally a representation of atomic power, and the fears that brought with it. I have discussed previously that horror often deals with our fears, and Kaiju are not different in that respect. As we see the world become more comfortable with atomic power, we see Godzilla take on a more friendly and protective, yet potentially destructive role. And again in 1984 in Return of Godzilla at the height of the cold war, we see Godzilla become again a fearful monster of destruction, and now we are seeing in the newest iteration of Godzilla both the fear and the hope because Godzilla is both destructive and the savior from more destructive beasts. Even if you are not interested in the political ramification of Godzilla, we can all agree that Godzilla is AWESOME!!
But Godzilla is not the only Kaiju, there are many others, and some not even originating in Japan! Sing with me! Every Country Has A Monster! MST3K, you NEVER fail me! I love you!
We have seen Kaiju from other cultures. King Kong for example, is also a Kaiju, but he first appeared in 1933 King Kong from RKO pictures. (predated Godzilla who didn't show up until 1954!) Although in 1962 American King Kong met with Japanese Godzilla in an awesome match-up in King Kong vs. Godzilla . In King Kong we see the interference of modern man in the world. Because in the original King Kong, the beast lived in peace on his remote island, and was even the protector of the people who worshiped him, but move him to New York, and the disruption has him destroying New York city, kidnapping Fay Wray, and swatting airplanes from the top of the Empire State Building. In this we can see the fear of trampling the unknown, forcing our ways on to others and the rape and pillage of the natural world. We see these themes repeated in the modern iterations Kong: Skull Island. Like Godzilla, King Kong's role has changed over time from rampaging monster to tragic anti-hero. Although I would argue that King Kong ultimately is the victim. Torn from his home and made a spectacle. I wold be pissed too, and no tall building would be safe from me! When I was 7 or 8, the local theater showed the original King Kong. I remember my feet sticking to the floor as I made my way to the red velvet seat, then staring in awe at Kong on the big screen. Even then, I felt bad for Kong.
Speaking of Kaiju I love, I gotta talk about Mothra! I SOOOOOO wanted to ride Mothra as a child. It seemed the coolest thing in the world to me. Maybe that is where I get my well known catch phrase in RPG games of "I'm gonna RIDE it!". Anyway, giant fuzzy moth, little tiny women living in a lantern on its back, what could be more awesome? Am I right or am I right? Mothra made her first appearance in 1961 in the eponymous Mothra. Mothra, unlike Godzilla, made her appearance as a protector . We see the changes in times, we were moving into the era of love, and the idea of a protective, fuzzy creature seems great. Mothra, like King Kong, started out as the protector of her island home. Even in 1992 Godzilla vs. Mothra, Mothra is trying to protect the world. Godzilla's appearance in this movie was just so they can have Godzilla in the movie. He added little to the movie, but we did get to see a match-up between Godzilla and Mothra.
Well I can go on and on, but this post would be a novel and take me 10 years to write. So, go check out some Kaiju. Enjoy the majesty and the silliness of it all.
The picture at the top of the page is from a book called How to Train Your Kaiju. Both the Kindle and the audio version can be found on Amazon.
- The One With the Hump