Kaiju eiga : Japanese Monsters Movies

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the japanese cinema is known worldwide for its samurai movies, animated feature films, scary yurei and his popular sci-fi monsters. As one of the most productive on the planet, it is presented in many genres ranging from historical cinema to contemporary cinema, passing through theater, yakuza stories, youth and even eroticism.

Today we are going to talk about a category that has influenced the country’s pop culture.

Kaijū eiga is a Japanese film genre featuring giant creatures using actors dressed as latex monsters and cardboard model cities. Its international star: Godzilla with no less than thirty films to his credit. Since the success of the series, other kajū eiga have emerged.

Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the monster cinema and discover the unmissable movies.

? Kaijū eiga, the cinema of monsters

King Kong and Rodan vs.  King Ghidorah
King Kong and Rodan vs. King Ghidorah. Credits: blackdoom0 on DeviantArt

The ground shakes, roars, buildings collapse… under the destructive madness of a giant monster that sows chaos in the heart of a big city, with a nice ecological message as its key… Such is the typical scenario of the genre Kaijū eiga Let’s take a closer look at the origin of monster movies in japan.

☝️ What does kaijū mean?

Kaiju 怪獣 in Japanese means ” strange beast ” either ” mysterious creature » and by extension the large hostile critters called « monsters “. The term to have 映画 as for him, refers to the film genre. In Japan, there are many categories of movies like chanbara eiga (equivalent to our swashbuckling movies), the yakuza eiga, yūrei eiga or even the have a little finger to define erotic films. Therefore, we can translate Kaiju has ” pair ” japanese monster movies ».

? A little history of the kaijū eiga genre

Monster movies appeared in the United States with ” king kong in 1933, where a young woman gets caught in the clutches of a huge gorilla rampaging through New York City. Two decades later, The monster of lost times recounts the awakening of a terrible creature after a nuclear test. During this postwar period, Japan slowly recovered from the traumas of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was then that Godzilla, initially called Gojira, appeared in 1954 in the archipelago.

Building on its success, the science fiction film launched a new genre in the Land of the Rising Sun: monster movies, or kaijū eiga in Japan. Inspired by nuclear damage, kaijū eiga movies often show scenes of mass destruction as a message of conscience. Godzilla is such a work that it will be available in many places.

? Godzilla, the king of Japanese monsters

kaiju eiga monster

Everyone has heard his name before: Godzilla, the mythical monster of Japanese cinema was imagined by Japanese producer tomoyuki tanaka. Seeing the success of King Kong, the latter had the idea to ride the wave of giant monsters. By its real name Gojira (a mixture of gorilla “gorira” and whale “kujira” in Japanese) the prehistoric lizard looks more like a mix of dinosaur and alligator. It is recognized by its gigantic size, its rough scales, its dorsal spines, its powerful tail and its sharp jaw. Made by ishiro hondathe master of the genre and produced by the Toho Studiothe film is a real success and has gained many fans since the 1950s.

? The list of the most famous kaijū

After King Kong, the furious gorilla and Gozilla, the legendary giant lizard, other kaijū have marked the history of science fiction:

anguirus (1955):
Ankylosaurus-like dinosaur and the first monster to challenge Godzilla.

Rodan (1956):
Giant prehistoric reptile, flying at the speed of a hypersonic aircraft.

mother (1961):
Giant protective butterfly of nature, escorted by two tiny fairies.

Camera (1965):
Giant turtle imagined by the Daiei Film studio to compete with Godzilla.

Baran (1958):
A prehistoric creature that looks like a large spiny lizard.

Ghidorah (1964):
Three-headed golden dragon, sworn enemy of Godzilla, nicknamed King Ghidorah.

? These films with Kaijū that you must see

kaiju movies

Of kaiju movies, some are especially cultured for their creativity or for the special effects used at the time. From 1930 to today, here is the list of must-see monster movies.

? King Kong by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (1933)
& Peter Jackson Remake (2005)

A ship joins Skull Island for a shoot starring Ann Darow, a beautiful blonde. On this island, populated by prehistoric animals, there is a strange creature worshiped by the natives. As soon as Ann arrives, she is kidnapped and offered to the god Kong.

? Godzilla by Ishiro Honda (1954)
& Godzilla Resurgence by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi (2016)

A fishing boat is found abandoned in Tokyo Bay. After investigation, it is the work of a giant creature capable of destroying humanity. Some time later, the monster finds itself in the middle of the city of Tokyo and destroys everything in its path, causing many victims.

? Rodan by Ishiro Honda (1956)

In the south of Japan, in a small town on the island of Kyushu, minors are victims of strange attacks. A deeply shocked survivor tells of seeing a gigantic egg hatch.

?Mothra by Ishiro Honda (1961)

The men travel to a highly irradiated mysterious island and discover there an indigenous people and two little fairies. These are removed, incurring the wrath of the island’s deity: Mothra. The larva will become a huge butterfly that will destroy everything in its path.

? Bite by Ishiro Honda (1963)

Mu, an ancient civilization swallowed by the ocean is about to rise again to take over the world. Faced with this planetary threat, Earth retaliates and sends a fearsome flying war submarine to confront the dragon of Mu.

? Ghidorah, the three-headed monster, by Honda Ishiro (1964)

A meteor crashes into Earth. Soon after, a Martian from the future makes mysterious predictions. Humanity would have been destroyed by a titanic monster. Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan will then have to join forces to face the terrible three-headed creature called Ghidrah.

? Gamera by Noriaki Yuasa (1965)

At the North Pole, a terrible atomic explosion awakens a prehistoric creature trapped under ice for 8,000 years. Drawn by the heat of the city, the hungry monster heads to Tokyo wreaking havoc.

? Daimajin by Kimiyoshi Yasuda (1966)

In medieval Japan, a people oppressed by the power and violence of a ruthless lord pray before a huge stone statue. The warrior deity is resurrected to help the villagers.

? The peer host Bong Joon Ho (2006)

Park hee-bong lives peacefully with her family in Seoul and runs a bar near the Han River. The water there is particularly polluted. One day, a water monster emerges from the depths of the Han River causing terror and kidnaps Hyun-seo, her granddaughter.

? Matt Reeves’s Cloverfield (2008)

In New York, Rob gets a surprise party from his relatives before he leaves for Japan. His friend Hub is tasked with filming the evening. Everything goes normally until the guests feel a violent tremor: a kaijū is shaking Manhattan.

? Pacific Rim by Guillermo del Toro (2013)

Humanity is attacked by giant creatures that rampage across the planet. Even the army forces fail to fight them. A former pilot and a woman will be called as a last hope. Aboard a huge robot, they will try to save the world.

kaiju monsters

Ultraman. Source: web-japan.org

Since the 1950s, kaijū eiga have marked japanese pop culture. with those cult fictional monsters, their special effects and their increasingly impressive acrobatics, the genre continues to excite its fans today. And you, what is your favorite kaijū?

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