The Kaiju Film

A Critical Study of Cinema’s Biggest Monsters


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About the Book

The Kaiju (strange monster or strange beast) film genre has a number of themes that go well beyond the “big monsters stomping on cities” motif. Since the seminal King Kong 1933) and the archetypal Godzilla (1954), kaiju has mined the subject matter of science run amok, militarism, capitalism, colonialism, consumerism and pollution. This critical examination of kaiju considers the entirety of the genre—the major franchises, along with less well known films like Kronos (1957), Monsters (2010) and Pacific Rim (2013). The author examines how kaiju has crossed cultures from its original folkloric inspirations in both the U.S. and Japan and how the genre continues to reflect national values to audiences.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Jason Barr is an associate professor at Blue Ridge Community College. His work has appeared in African American Review, Explicator, The Journal of Continuing Higher Education, and The Journal of Caribbean Literatures, among others. He lives in Weyers Cave, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Jason Barr

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 212
Bibliographic Info: filmography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9963-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2395-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1

Introduction: A Genre Apart 4
Toward a New Definition 8
The Field of Study 18
Background on the Genre 21
The Impact on Cultures 22

1. The Japanese Origins of the Kaiju 25
Yokai 26
Bunraku 28
Kabuki 32
Noh 34

2. Disasters, Manmade and Natural 37
Nuclear Disasters 37
Natural Disasters 49
Terrorism 52
Pollution 56

3. International and Domestic Politics 68
The End of Empires 70
Internal Politics 76
Modern International Relationships 92

4. Science and the Weapons of Mass Destruction 105
Science as Destroyer 106
The Japanese ­Self-Defense Forces 111

5. America and Kaiju 121
Violence 123
American Size and Might 139

6. The Body, Gender, and Kaiju 156
Women in Kaiju Cinema 156
Body Horror 164

7. The Role of Nostalgia 169

Conclusion: What’s Next? 176

Filmography 183
Chapter Notes 185
Bibliography 192
Index 199

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Written with both a fan’s indulgence and a scholar’s hard-core grasp of information…for aficionados of the genre, this is splendid stuff”—DVD Choices
  • “Fascinating”—G-Fan
  • “Barr provides the most comprehensive exploration of kaiju cinema to date”—Diabolique Magazine
  • “Essential reading for both fans of the genre and those interested in film scholarship, as it aims to provide an in-depth analysis of these movies…and it succeeds…an insightful examination of giant monster movies from across the globe…well-written, thoroughly researched…engaging…highly recommended”—Dread Central
  • “This may be the most sober book ever written and that ever will be written on the subject, as Barr takes these films very seriously…an incredible depth of knowledge”—Flick Attack
  • “Barr takes on an incredible task…a healthy balance that will enlighten fans without scaring away the newcomers…Barr successfully places the kaiju film within the context of Japanese culture, in ways few have probably considered…Barr has done his research, and has obviously sat down with these films—even the most obscure ones—more than a few times. With The Kaiju Film, he joins the ranks of Godzilla scholars”—Killer Reviews