Daikaijû Eiga: Big Monsters, Small Cities

2016-big monsters-noteIf you’re going to use specialized terms when discussing something, it’s a good idea if your reader is on the same page as you. This is doubly true when you put your own spin on said terms. As Welltun Cares Reviews has such discussions, from time to time it a necessity to have a place to point to so that readers can get the information they might need. It not only cuts down on the words in the reviews but also reduces the wear and tear on the keyboard.

And, needless to say, I’m very lazy and prefer explaining things once.

This particular essay covers a certain type of Science Fiction story, that of the Daikaijû. It is divided into two parts. The first list the General Terminology used when discussing this subject.  The second serves as a sort of Case Studies, covering a handful of films to see if they match the terms as this site sees them.

Loads of fun for everyone!

General Terminology

To start with: Daikaijû Eiga. What does that mean?

Daikaijû is a Japanese word.  Dai means “big” and kaijû means “Strange Beast”.  Thus Daikaijû means “Big Strange Beast” or “Giant Monster”.  When combined with Eiga, you have the term “Giant Monster Movie”.

In the real world, Daikaijû Eiga covers Japanese monster movies such as Gamera, Mothra, and, of course, Godzilla. Here at Welltun Cares Review, I’ve refined the term to a specific type of Giant Monster movie based on a movie’s characteristics rather than the location being made.

To my mind, your basic Daikaijû has two to three common features.

  1. The monster can not be killed off by conventional weapons. Artillery fire, bombs, they are all useless before the beast.
  2. As regular weapons don’t work, only a specific route will stop the monster. This means can be of Super Science in origin (a Death Ray, say), supernatural (a certain prayer or rite ending the threat), appeasement (the monster gets what it wants and leaves) or having the stuffing beat out of them by another Daikaijû.
  3. Some (but not all) of these monsters will have a weapon of some kind that is either not typical of the animal kingdom (fire breath being the most common) exaggerated version of a real ability (such as spraying webs)

As noted, the last feature is not critical to the sub-genre.  However, the first two are essential. If the movie ends with the monster killed by unaided gun fire or missiles, then the monster in question is not Daikaijû.

Simple as that.

For the purposes of this site, any Giant Monster who fits at the very least the first two features of being Daikaijû will be considered Daikaijû, whether the film comes from Japan or not.  The same holds true the other way: If they can be stopped by conventional weapons, they are just Giant Monsters no matter where the film hails from.

Again, this is for classification and identification at this site.  Other sites may insist otherwise.

One final notation: Daikaijû Eiga proper (i.e. Japanese Giant Monster Movies) can (and often is) divided into three periods.  They are the Showa era (from 1954 (Godzilla: King of the Monsters) to 1980 (Gamera: Super Monster)), the Heisei era (from 1984 (Godzilla 1985) to 1999 (Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys)) and the Shinsei or Millienia Era (from (Godzilla 2000) to the present day). As I feel I’m pushing my luck already with my own fancy dancy usage of another people’s language, I tend to stick with the common usage.

Case Studies

Daikaiju Eiga proper (i.e. Japanese Giant Monster Movies) can (and often is) divided into three periods.  They are as follows:

On the next page I look at a handful of films and judge, by the standards set above, which I will cover as Daikaijû and which I won’t. By necessity, there will be spoilers for the various films. In order to keep the concerned Spoiler Free, here is a list of the films discussed, in alphabetical (but not presentation) order:

The Blob (1958), The Giant Claw, Godzilla (1954), Godzilla (1998), Gorgo, King Kong (1933), King Kong v. Godzilla, Rodan, and Space Amoeba.

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