Kaijū (怪獣 kaijū, from Japanese "strange beast") is a Japanese film genre that features giant monsters, usually attacking major cities and engaging the military and other monsters in battle. It is a subgenre of tokusatsu entertainment. This word originated from the Chinese Classic of Mountains and Seas.
Kaiju originally referred to monsters and creatures from ancient Japanese legends. The word "Kaiju" first appears in Classic of Mountains and Seas. After Sakoku, opening Japan to foreign relations, Japanese came to use the term kaiju to express concepts from paleontology and legendary creatures from around the world. For example, in 1908, during the Meiji period, it was suggested that the extinct Ceratosaurus was alive in Alaska, referred to as kaiju. However, there are no traditional depictions of kaiju or kaiju-like creatures in Japanese folklore but rather the origins of kaiju are found in film. The title of the first film with the name of the Kaiju is an atomic Kaiju appears (原子怪獣現わる Genshi Kaiju ga Arawareru), the title of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in Japan. Gojira (transliterated to Godzilla) is regarded as the first kaiju film and was released in 1954. Tomoyuki Tanaka, a producer for Toho Studios in Tokyo, needed a film to release after his previous project was halted and upon seeing how well American Hollywood giant monster movie genre films King Kong and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms had done in the box offices of Japan, as well as personally being a fan of the films, Tomoyuki Tanaka set out to make a new movie based on those American giant monster movies and created Godzilla. Tomoyuki Tanaka aimed to combine Hollywood giant monster movies with the re-emerged Japanese fears of atomic weapons, which came about due to the Daigo Fukuryū Maru fishing boat incident, and so he put a team together and created the concept of a radioactive giant creature emerging from the depths of the ocean which would become the iconic monster Godzilla. Godzilla was initially met with commercial success in Japan, inspiring an entire genre that came to be known as kaiju movies.
The term Kaiju translates to "strange beast". It is a science fiction and fantasy giant creature that often takes the role of either antagonist, protagonist, or force of nature. Godzilla is an example of a kaiju; others include Mothra, King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, King Kong, Rodan, Gamera, Gyaos, Daimajin and Gappa. The term ultra-kaiju is longhand for kaiju in the Ultra Series.
Daikaiju (大怪獣 daikaijū, large kaiju) roughly translates as large strange beast, and refers to the larger monsters. The literal translation is about a size difference between a kaiju and a daikaiju, with the implication that the daikaiju is the greater of the two types. The exact definition of what determines a kaiju from a daikaiju is debated. This term is used for the most powerful kaiju, the prefix dai- emphasizing great power or status. The first appearance of Daikaiju is in the Japanese title Rodan, Sora no Daikaijū Radon (空の大怪獣 ラドン, "Radon, Giant Monster of the Sky"). Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra are the san daikaiju, the three great kaiju. An example of the term exists in a 1908 book.
Seijin(星人, star beings) is a Japanese suffixal term for extraterrestrial aliens, such as "Kaseijin(火星人)" which means "Martian". Aliens can also be called "Uchujin" (宇宙人) which means "space beings".
Toho has produced a variety of kaiju films over the years (many of which featured Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra) but other Japanese studios contributed to expanding the genre in Japan by producing films and shows of their own, including Daiei Film, Kadokawa Pictures, Tsuburaya Productions, and Shochiku and Nikkatsu Studios.
A technique that was developed to portray the kaiju. An actor plays the part of the kaiju while in an articulated costume.
Eiji Tsubaraya, who was in charge of the special effects for Gojira, developed a technique to animate the kaiju that became known colloquially as suitmation. Where Western monster movies often utilized a technique known as stop motion to animate the monsters, Tsubaraya decided to attempt to create suits, referred to as a creature suit, for a human (suit actor) to wear and act in. This was combined with the use of miniature models and scaled down city sets to create the illusion of a giant creature in a city. Due to the extreme stiffness of the latex or rubber suits often filming would be done at double speed, so that when the film was shown the monster was smoother and slower than the original shot. Kaiju films also utilized a form of puppetry interwoven between suitmation scenes which served to have shots that were physically impossible for the actor to perform in the suit. Later computer-generated imagery (CGI) was used for certain special sequences and monsters, but overall, the suitmation technique has been present in an overwhelming majority of kaiju films produced in Japan of all eras. American produced kaiju films strayed from this however, and began to focus on CGI in recent releases such as the 2014 release of Godzilla. These suitmation techniques were adapted by almost all kaiju films, and continue even in modern Japanese kaiju films and tokusatsu although more stop motion and CGI are utilized.
- King Kong (1933)
- Son of Kong (1933)
- Wasei Kingu Kongu (1933)
- King Kong Appears in Edo (1938)
- The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
- Godzilla series (1954 – present)
- Godzilla (1954)
- Godzilla Raids Again (1955)
- King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
- Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
- Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
- Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)
- Son of Godzilla (1967)
- Destroy All Monsters (1968)
- All Monsters Attack (1969)
- Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
- Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
- Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973)
- Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
- Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
- The Return of Godzilla (1984)
- Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
- Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
- Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)
- Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
- Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)
- Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
- Godzilla 2000 (1999)
- Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)
- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
- Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)
- Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)
- Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)
- Shin Godzilla (2016)
- Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017)
- Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle (2018)
- It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
- Rodan (1956)
- The Giant Claw (1957)
- The Mysterians (1957)
- 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
- Varan the Unbelievable (1958)
- The Giant Behemoth (1959)
- The Giant Gila Monster (1959)
- The Three Treasures (1959)
- Reptilicus (1961)
- Mothra (1961)
- Gorgo (1961)
- Gorath (1962)
- Atragon (1963)
- Dogora (1964)
- Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
- Gamera: The Giant Monster (1965)
- The Magic Serpent (1966)
- Daimajin (1966)
- The War of the Gargantuas (1966)
- The X from Outer Space (1967)
- Gappa: The Triphibian Monster (1967)
- King Kong Escapes (1967)
- Ultra Series (1967 – present)
- Ultraman (1967)
- Ultraman, Ultraseven: Great Violent Monster Fight (1969)
- The 6 Ultra Brothers vs. the Monster Army (1974)
- Ultraman (1979)
- Ultraman: Great Monster Decisive Battle (1979)
- Ultraman Zoffy: Ultra Warriors vs. the Giant Monster Army (1984)
- Ultraman Story (1984)
- Ultraman: The Adventure Begins (1987)
- Ultra Q The Movie: Legend of the Stars (1990)
- Ultraman Zearth (1996)
- Ultraman Tiga & Ultraman Dyna: Warriors of the Star of Light (1998)
- Ultraman Gaia: The Battle in Hyperspace (1999)
- Ultraman Tiga: The Final Odyssey (2000)
- Ultraman Cosmos: The First Contact (2001)
- Ultraman Cosmos 2: The Blue Planet (2002)
- Ultraman Cosmos vs. Ultraman Justice: The Final Battle (2003)
- Ultraman: The Next (2004)
- Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers (2006)
- Superior Ultraman 8 Brothers (2008)
- Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends (2009)
- Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial (2010)
- Ultraman Saga (2012)
- Ultraman Ginga Theater Special (2013)
- Ultraman Ginga Theater Special: Ultra Monster Hero Battle Royal! (2014)
- Ultraman Ginga S The Movie (2015)
- Ultraman X The Movie (2016)
- Ultraman Orb The Movie (2017)
- Ultraman Geed The Movie (2018)
- Yongary: Monster from the Deep (1967)
- Space Amoeba (1970)
- Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972)
- Jumborg Ace & Giant (1974)
- King Kong (1976)
- Goliathon (1977)
- King Kong Lives (1986)
- Spider-Man (1978)
- Q - The Winged Serpent (1982)
- Pulgasari (1985)
- Yamato Takeru (1994)
- Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)
- Rebirth of Mothra (1996)
- Zarkorr! The Invader (1996)
- Godzilla (1998)
- Yonggary (1999)
- Garuda (2004)
- King Kong (2005)
- Chousei Kantai Sazer-X the Movie: Fight! Star Warriors (2005)
- Negadon: The Monster from Mars (2005)
- Gamera the Brave (2006)
- D-War (2007)
- Deep Sea Monster Reigo (2008)
- Cloverfield (2008)
- Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)
- Pacific Rim (2013)
- Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)
- MonsterVerse series (2014 – present)
- Colossal (2017)
- Rampage (2018)
- Godzilla comics (Toho; 1976 – present)
- Neon Genesis Evangelion (Kadokawa Shoten; 1994 – 2013)
- Tokyo Storm Warning (Wildstorm; 2003)
- Cloverfield/Kishin (Kadokawa Shoten; 2008)
- ULTRAMAN (Shogakukan; 2011 – present)
- Kaijumax (Oni Press; 2015 – present)
- Godzilla video games (Toho; 1983 – present)
- Ultraman video games (Tsuburaya; 1984 – present)
- Time Gal (Taito; 1985)
- King of the Monsters (SNK; 1991)
- Rampage (1986) (formerly owned by Midway Games and now owned by its successor Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment; 1986, 2019)
- Robot Alchemic Drive (Sandlot; 2002)
- War of the Monsters (Sony, Incognito Entertainment; 2003)
- Pacific Rim video game (Yuke's/Reliance; 2013)
- Marine Kong (Nisan Productions; April 3 – September 25, 1960)
- Ultra Series (Tsuburaya Productions; January 2, 1966 – present)
- Ambassador Magma (P Productions; July 4, 1966 – September 25, 1967)
- The King Kong Show (Toei Animation; September 10, 1966 – August 31, 1969)
- Kaiju Booska (Tsuburaya Productions; November 9, 1966 – September 27, 1967)
- Captain Ultra (Toei Company; April 16 – September 24, 1967)
- Kaiju Ouji (P Productions; October 2, 1967 – March 25, 1968)
- Giant Robo (Toei Company; October 11, 1967 – April 1, 1968)
- Giant Phantom Monster Agon (Nippon Television; January 2 – 8, 1968)
- Mighty Jack (Tsuburaya Productions; April 6 – June 29, 1968)
- Spectreman (P Productions; January 2, 1971 – March 25, 1972)
- Kamen Rider Series (Toei Company; April 3, 1971 – present)
- Silver Kamen (Senkosha Productions; November 28, 1971 – May 21, 1972)
- Mirrorman (Tsuburaya Productions; December 5, 1971 – November 26, 1972)
- Redman (Tsuburaya Productions; April 3 – September 8, 1972)
- Thunder Mask (Nippon Television; October 3, 1972 – March 27, 1973)
- Ike! Godman (Toho Company; October 5, 1972 – April 10, 1973)
- Assault! Human!! (Toho Company; October 7 – December 30, 1972)
- Iron King (Senkosha Productions; October 8, 1972 – April 8, 1973)
- Jumborg Ace (Tsuburaya Productions; January 17 – December 29, 1973)
- Fireman (Tsuburaya Productions; January 17 – July 31, 1973)
- Zone Fighter (Toho Company; April 2 – September 24, 1973)
- Super Robot Red Baron (Nippon Television; July 4, 1973 – March 27, 1974)
- Kure Kure Takora (Toho Company; October 1, 1973 – September 27, 1974)
- Ike! Greenman (Toho Company; November 12, 1973 – September 27, 1974)
- Super Robot Mach Baron (Nippon Television; October 7, 1974 – March 31, 1975)
- Super Sentai (Toei Company; April 5, 1975 – present)
- Dinosaur War Izenborg (Tsuburaya Productions; October 17, 1977 – June 30, 1978)
- Spider-Man (Toei Company; May 17, 1978 – March 14, 1979)
- Godzilla (Hanna-Barbera; September 9, 1978 – December 8, 1979)
- Megaloman (Toho Company; May 7 – December 24, 1979)
- Metal Hero Series (Toei Company; March 5, 1982 – January 24, 1999)
- Denkou Choujin Gridman (Tsuburaya Productions; April 3, 1993 – January 8, 1994)
- Power Rangers (Saban Entertainment; August 28, 1993 – present)
- Neon Genesis Evangelion (Gainax; October 4, 1995 – March 27, 1996)
- Godzilla Island (Toho Company; October 6, 1997 – September 30, 1998)
- Godzilla: The Series (Sony Pictures Television; September 12, 1998 – April 22, 2000)
- Kong: The Animated Series (BKN; September 9, 2000 – March 26, 2001)
- Tekkōki Mikazuki (Media Factory; October 23, 2000 – March 24, 2001)
- SFX Giant Legend: Line (Independent; April 25 – May 26, 2003)
- Chouseishin Series (Toho Company; October 4, 2003 – June 24, 2006)
- Bio Planet WoO (Tsuburaya Productions; April 9 – August 13, 2006)
- Daimajin Kanon (Kadokawa Pictures; April 2 – October 1, 2010)
- SciFi Japan TV (ACTV Japan; August 10, 2012 – present)
- Kong: King of the Apes (Netflix; April 15, 2016 – present)
In popular culture
- In the Japanese language original of Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura's brother Toya likes to tease her by regularly calling her kaiju, relating to her noisily coming down from her room for breakfast every morning.
- The Polish cartoon TV series Bolek and Lolek makes a reference to the kaiju film industry in the mini-series "Bolek and Lolek's Great Journey" by featuring a robot bird (similar to Rodan) and a saurian monster (in reference to Godzilla) as part of a Japanese director's monster star repertoire.
- In the second season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, there is a story arc composed of two episodes entitled "The Zillo Beast" and "The Zillo Beast Strikes Back", mostly influenced by Godzilla films, in which a huge reptilian beast is transported from its homeworld Malastare to the city-covered planet Coruscant, where it breaks loose and goes on a rampage.
- In Return of the Jedi, the rancor was originally to be played by an actor in a suit similar to the way how kaiju films like Godzilla were made. However, the rancor was eventually portrayed by a puppet filmed in high speed.
- In The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror VI" segment "Attack of the 50-Foot Eyesores", Homer goes to Lard Lad Donuts; unable to get a "Colossal Doughnut" as advertised, he steals Lard Lad's donut, awakening other giant advertising statues that come to life to terrorize Springfield. When Lard Lad awakes, he makes a Godzilla roar. Guillermo del Toro directed the Treehouse of Horror XXIV couch gag which made multiple references to Godzilla and other Kaiju-based characters, including his own Pacific Rim characters.
- The South Park episode "Mecha-Streisand" features parodies of Mechagodzilla, Gamera, Ultraman, and Mothra.
- Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters features the "Insanoflex", a giant robot exercise machine rampaging downtown.
- In the 2009 film Crank: High Voltage, there is a sequence parodying kaiju films using the same practical effects techniques used for Tokusatsu films such as miniatures and suitmation.
- The Japanese light novel series Gate makes use of the term kaiju as a term for giant monsters - specifically an ancient Fire Dragon - in the Special Region. Also, one of the Japanese protagonists refers to the JSDF's tradition to fight such monsters in the films, as well as comparing said dragon with King Ghidorah at one point.
- In Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero, there is a dimension that is filled with giant monsters that live on one island where they co-exist with humans that live on a city island.
- In the 2013 film Pacific Rim and its 2018 sequel Pacific Rim Uprising, "kaiju" is the moniker bestowed upon giant inter-dimensional monsters that invade Earth and attempt to exterminate humanity.
- Kaiju-Bird Monster is the alt-mode of Decepticon leader Emperor Deathsaurus in the Transformers: Victory anime.
- On 18 May 2018, US artist Space Laces released a Bass House song title "Kaiju", released by Never Say Die Records as a part of his album Overdrive.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kaiju.|
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- "Kaiju (Original Mix) by Space Laces on Beatport". www.beatport.com. Retrieved 2018-07-11.