Kaiju

Tsuburaya Productions Toho Company Godzilla
The kaiju (giant monster) Godzilla from the 1954 film Godzilla, one of the first Japanese films to feature a giant monster.

Kaiju (Japanese: 怪獣, Hepburn: kaijū, lit. "strange beast") is a Japanese genre of films featuring giant monsters. The term kaiju (which comes from the Chinese text Classic of Mountains and Seas) can refer to the giant monsters themselves, which are usually depicted attacking major cities and engaging the military, or other kaiju, in battle. The kaiju genre is a subgenre of tokusatsu (特撮, "special filming") entertainment.

The 1954 film Godzilla is commonly regarded as the first kaiju film. Kaiju characters are often somewhat metaphorical in nature; Godzilla, for example, serves as a metaphor for nuclear weapons, reflecting the fears of post-war Japan following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Lucky Dragon 5 incident. Other notable examples of kaiju characters include Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Gamera.

Origins

The Japanese word kaijū originally referred to monsters and creatures from ancient Japanese legends;[1] it earlier appeared in the Chinese Classic of Mountains and Seas.[2][3] After sakoku had ended and Japan was opened to foreign relations in the mid 19th century, the term kaijū came to be used to express concepts from paleontology and legendary creatures from around the world. For example, in 1908 it was suggested that the extinct Ceratosaurus was alive in Alaska,[4] and this was referred to as kaijū.[5] 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.[6]

The first appearance within a film title of kaijū was in 1953 with Genshi Kaijū ga Arawareru (原子怪獣現れる), literally "An Atomic Kaiju Appears", and the title in Japan of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.[7] However, Gojira (transliterated as Godzilla) is commonly regarded as the first kaiju film in the west 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. Seeing how well the Hollywood giant monster movie genre films King Kong and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms had done in Japanese box offices, and himself a fan of these films, he set out to make a new movie based on them and created Godzilla.[8] Tanaka aimed to combine Hollywood giant monster movies with the re-emerged Japanese fears of atomic weapons that arose from 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, a creature that would become the monster Godzilla.[9] Godzilla initially had commercial success in Japan, inspiring other kaiju movies.[10]

Terminology

Kaijū

The term kaijū translates literally as "strange beast",[11] but the term should not be misconstrued, veritably. Kaiju are science fiction and fantasy creatures, generally "Godzillian" in size and character. They can be antagonistic, protagonistic, or a neutral force of nature, but more specifically as preternatural creatures of divine power. Succinctly, they are not merely, "big animals." Godzilla, for example, from its first appearance in the initial 1954 entry in the Godzilla franchise, has manifest all of these aspects. Other examples of kaiju include Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Anguirus, King Kong, Gamera, Daimajin, Gappa, Guilala and Yonggary. There are also subcategories including Mecha Kaiju (Meka-Kaijū), featuring mechanical or cybernetic characters, including Mogera, Mechani-Kong, Mechagodzilla, M.O.G.U.E.R.A., which are an off-shoot of kaiju. Likewise, the collective sub-category Ultra Kaiju (Urutora-Kaijū) is a separate strata of kaijū, which specifically originate in the long-running Ultra Series franchise, but can also be referred to simply by kaijū. As a noun, kaijū is an invariant, as both the singular and the plural expressions are identical.

Daikaiju

Daikaijū (大怪獣) literally translates as "giant kaiju" or "great kaiju". This hyperbolic term was used to denote greatness of the subject kaiju; the prefix dai- emphasizing great size, power, and/or status. The first known appearance of the term daikaiju in the 20th Century was in the publicity materials for the original 1954 release of Godzilla. Specifically, in the subtitle on the original movie poster, Suibaku Daikaiju Eiga (水爆大怪獣映画), lit. "H-Bomb Giant Monster Movie" (in proper English, "The Giant H-Bomb Monster Movie").

Kaijin

Kaijin (怪人 lit. "strange person") refers to distorted human beings or humanoid-like creatures. The origin of kaijin goes back to the early 20th Century Japanese literature, starting with Rampo Edogawa's 1936 novel, The Fiend with Twenty Faces. The story introduced Edogawa's master detective, Kogoro Akechi's arch-nemesis, the eponymous "Fiend," a mysterious master of disguise, whose real face was unknown; the Moriarty to Akechi's Sherlock. Catching the public's imagination, many such literary and movie (and later television) villains took on the mantle of kaijin. To be clear, kaijin is not an offshoot of kaiju. The first ever kaijin that appeared on film was the great Buddha appears a lost film, made in 1934.

After the Pacific War, the term was modernized when it was adopted to describe the bizarre, genetically-engineered and cybernetically-enhanced evil humanoid spawn conceived for the Kamen Rider Series in 1971. This created a new splinter of the term, which quickly propagated through the popularity of superhero programs produced from the 1970s, forward. These kaijin possess rational thought and the power of speech, as do human beings. A successive kaijin menagerie, in diverse iterations, appeared over numerous series, most notably the Super Sentai programs premiering in 1975 (later carried over into Super Sentai's English iteration as Power Rangers in the 1990s).

This created yet another splinter, as the kaijin of Super Sentai have since evolved to feature unique forms and attributes (i.e. gigantism), existing somewhere between kaijin and kaiju.

Seijin

Seijin (星人), literally "star people", appears within Japanese words for extraterrestrial aliens, such as Kaseijin (火星人), which means "Martian". Aliens can also be called uchūjin (宇宙人) which means "beings from space". But they only best well known in the Ultra Series.

Kaijū eiga

Kaijū eiga (怪獣映画, "kaiju movie") is a film featuring one or more kaiju.

Toho has produced a variety of kaiju films over the years (many of which feature Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra); but other Japanese studios contributed to the genre by producing films and shows of their own: Daiei Film (Kadokawa Pictures), Tsuburaya Productions, and Shochiku and Nikkatsu Studios.

Monster techniques

Eiji Tsuburaya, who was in charge of the special effects for Gojira, developed a technique to animate the kaiju that became known colloquially as "suitmation".[12] Where Western monster movies often used stop motion to animate the monsters, Tsubaraya decided to attempt to create suits, called "creature suits", for a human (suit actor) to wear and act in.[13] 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.[14] Due to the extreme stiffness of the latex or rubber suits, filming would often be done at double speed, so that when the film was shown, the monster was smoother and slower than in the original shot.[8] Kaiju films also used a form of puppetry interwoven between suitmation scenes which served for shots that were physically impossible for the suit actor to perform. From the 1998 release of Godzilla, American-produced kaiju films strayed from suitmation to computer-generated imagery (CGI). In Japan, CGI and stop-motion have been increasingly used for certain special sequences and monsters, but suitmation has been used for an overwhelming majority of kaiju films produced in Japan of all eras.[14][15]

Selected media

Films

Godzilla and Anguirus from the 1955 film Godzilla Raids Again film. The film was the first to feature two kaiju battling each other. This would go on to become a common theme in kaiju films.
Daikaiju (giant monster) Rodan from the 1956 film Rodan

Manga

Novels

Comics

Video games

Board games

Television

Other kaiju

Other appearances

See also

References

  1. ^ https://www.franceinter.fr/emissions/le-grand-bain/le-grand-bain-10-mai-2014
  2. ^ "Introduction to Kaiju [in Japanese]". dic-pixiv. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  3. ^ "A Study of Chinese monster culture - Mysterious animals that proliferates in present age media [in Japanese]". Hokkai-Gakuen University. Retrieved 2017-03-09.
  4. ^ Glanzman, Sam. Red Range: A Wild Western Adventure. Joe R. Lansdale. IDW Publishing. ISBN 978-1684062904. Retrieved May 26, 2018.
  5. ^ "怪世界 : 珍談奇話". NDL Digital Collections.
  6. ^ Foster, Michael (1998). The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore. Oakland: University of California Press.
  7. ^ Mustachio, Camille. Giant Creatures in Our World: Essays on Kaiju and American Popular Culture. Jason Barr. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476668369. Retrieved April 14, 2018.
  8. ^ a b Martin, Tim (May 15, 2014). "Godzilla: Why the Japanese original is no joke". Telegraph. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  9. ^ Harvey, Ryan (December 16, 2013). "A History of Godzilla on Film, Part 1: Origins (1954–1962)". Black Gate. Retrieved December 16, 2013.
  10. ^ Ryfle, Steve (1998). Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G. ECW Press.
  11. ^ Yoda, Tomiko; Harootunian, Harry (2006). Japan After Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present. Duke University Press Books. p. 344. ISBN 9780822388609.
  12. ^ Weinstock, Jeffery (2014) The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing.
  13. ^ Godziszewski, Ed (September 5, 2006). "Making of the Godzilla Suit". Classic Media 2006 DVD Special Features. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  14. ^ a b Allison, Anne (2006) Snake Person Monsters: Japanese Toys and the Global Imagination. Oakland: University of California Press
  15. ^ Failes, Ian (October 14, 2016). "The History of Godzilla Is the History of Special Effects". Inverse. Retrieved July 30, 2017.
  16. ^ Ryfle, Steve (1998). Japan's Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G. ECW Press. p. 15. ISBN 9781550223484.
  17. ^ Ryfle, Steve (1998). Japan's Favorite Mon-star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G". ECW Press. p. 17. ISBN 9781550223484.
  18. ^ Freer, Ian (2001). The Complete Spielberg. Virgin Books. p. 48. ISBN 9780753505564.
  19. ^ Derry, Charles (1977). Dark Dreams: A Psychological History of the Modern Horror Film. A. S. Barnes. p. 82. ISBN 9780498019159.
  20. ^ Cardcaptor Sakura, season 1 episode 1: "Sakura and the Mysterious Magic Book"; season 1 episode 15: "Sakura and Kero's Big Fight"
  21. ^ Usagi Yojimbo Vol.3 #66-68: "Sumi-e, Parts 1-3"
  22. ^ ""The Zillo Beast" Episode Guide". Archived from the original on July 4, 2015. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  23. ^ ""The Zillo Beast Strikes Back" Episode Guide". Archived from the original on June 28, 2015. Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  24. ^ "The Cinema Behind Star Wars: Godzilla". Retrieved October 5, 2014.
  25. ^ Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri, book I: "Contact", chapters II and V
  26. ^ Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (anime series) episode 2: "Two Military Forces", episode 3: "Fire Dragon", and episode 4: "To Unknown Lands"
  27. ^ "Kaiju (Original Mix) by Space Laces on Beatport". www.beatport.com. Retrieved 2018-07-11.
  28. ^ Mizuno, Ryou (2019). Sorcerous Stabber Orphen Anthology. Commentary (in Japanese). TO Books. p. 236. ISBN 9784864728799.