Godzilla contributed significantly to the spread, acceptance, and growth of the kaiju film genre in the United States. The kaiju genre began in Japan after World War II when filmmakers began spreading a message of fear about the scares brought by nuclear bombs and the nuclear testing by other nations. The effects of the nuclear bombs led to the loss of numerous lives on the islands of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The figurative explanation of these monsters caused by the radiation was coined to the mutations of individuals in the Japanese countries due to radioactive poisoning. Acceptance of the kaiju genre in the United States has allowed for the film industry’s popularity and production of sequels and creativity. The monsters are metaphoric of the failure of human beings to have peaceful relations and avoid war. The movies show how humans make everything worse by engaging in pointless wars with creatures that have superiority.
The kaiju film genre is one of the notable contributions to the film industry in Japan. Movies produced in this genre feature large monsters or giants who engage in destruction (Sakamoto, 2016, p. 225). These monsters were first figured as imaginations of creatures with the characteristics of lizards. The film industry had little knowledge of the kaiju monster as the Japanese monopolized it. Mythologies and legends were only popular among the young children and parents who spoke of monsters and their threats to human lives. Godzilla is arguably the pioneer of the kaiju genre, a film monster that feeds on nuclear energy from radiation and destroys cities. Godzilla contributed significantly to the spread, acceptance, and growth of the kaiju film genre in the United States.
The kaiju genre began in Japan after World War II when filmmakers began spreading a message of fear about the scares brought by nuclear bombs and the nuclear testing by other nations. The effects of the nuclear bombs led to the loss of numerous lives on the islands of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese lived in fear of the consequences of war and considered nuclear weapons a menace comparable to the kaiju. The figurative explanation of these monsters caused by the radiation was coined to the mutations of individuals in the Japanese countries due to radioactive poisoning. The resultant effect was the abnormal growth in individuals born in areas affected by nuclear weapons. The genre got its inspiration from the stories of war, and the effects of the nuclear bombs dropped on the surface of the Earth.
Furthermore, the kaiju genre depicts the concept of alien invasion, which can be seen in the beliefs of humankind as these species are superior and match no other creatures on the planet. The monsters in the cinematic creation of the kaiju films acknowledge the probability of foreign monsters which cause havoc and destruction on the planet. The genre has its origins in Japanese films produced after World War II between 1945 and 1948 (Tsutsui, 2004, p. 114). In addition, the projection of Godzilla, a monster that feeds on radiation, shows how the war affected the people of Japan and the results of weapon testing led to the creation of abnormal creatures on the face of the Earth. These creatures are symbolic of the catastrophes that occur due to war and nuclear weapons. The fights and rivalries between these monsters have led to the destruction of cities, and the loss of innocent lives, as seen in the films.
The term kaiju has both Chinese and Japanese descent and refers to monsters. The ancient Chinese mythologies have constant mentions of the kaiju. The term can be traced to ancient classic texts written around the 3rd century BC by Chinese scholars. The Japanese were able to take the term and use it to describe the creatures such as dinosaurs excavated beneath the Earth’s surface. In filmography, the term kaiju can refer to either the genre or the monsters in the films. The films were primarily associated with the spread of fear due to the looming threat of nuclear bombs (Anisfield, 1995, p. 53). And the wars that erupted between the kaiju and the humans were organized by military attacks. The monsters would also fight against each other as they wanted dominance over the world. Since these monsters feed on nuclear energy, they result from nuclear testing during the Cold War (Mettler, 2018, p. 415). The legends of creatures in Japanese mythology evolved and began taking the ideologies of monsters that are large and can tower over buildings and cause havoc.
Films are significant in educating society. As illustrated by the Japanese mythologies, the kaiju monsters are a consequence of human actions. The monsters destroy buildings and lives, as seen in the movies, which is applicable as a consequence of war. The nuclear weapons, intercultural conflicts, and hostility between the communities are described in the films’ plot. This is done by using the monsters like Godzilla and his rivals, who destroy the planet and wage war on human beings. The monsters are mostly awakened by the actions of humans, such as nuclear war and the excavation of restricted sites, which lead to an apocalyptic revelation of creatures. The kaiju genre films achieve the aspect of educating society.
Acceptance of the kaiju genre in the United States has allowed for the film industry’s popularity and production of sequels and creativity. The monsters are metaphoric of the failure of human beings to have peaceful relations and avoid war. The movies show how humans make everything worse by engaging in pointless wars with creatures that have superiority. The emotional reactions are due to fear to lead to the use of excessive nuclear weapons that are only absorbed by the creatures and make them stronger. This is symbolic of the aspect of war as more fighting reeds enmity and fosters discourse among human beings. In addition, the monsters remind humans of the consequences of bad choices, such as the use of unethical testing of weapons. Godzilla, the first kaiju movie with high reception in the United States, brought high scrutiny on the use of military weapons that are highly radioactive on the land. This led to reviews on the choice of weapons that are not harmful to human beings.
In addition, the films are created to entertain the public and captivate their minds on a horror yet thrilling genre. The creatures featured in these films are monstrous and resemble the miniature creatures on the planet, such as lizards, butterflies, and spiders. The gigantification of these animals mesmerizes the audience and gives a spectacular show when they are provided with nuclear abilities. The animals are also referred to as titans being the forces of nature and causing life to spawn. The idea of destruction leading to the creation of new life reminds the viewers of the beauty of nature and has given the films a higher reception by the public. After completing their missions, these creatures disappear into the abyss showing the humans that there is more to the world than just the surface. The aspect of a probable new dimension of the earth is not yet explored as a concept debated in science, and these movies have exploited the gap and provided humans with hollow earth where the kaiju live.
Kaiju films are essential in explaining the origin of monsters in legendary tales. In human history, cautionary tales have been told of monsters that roamed the world and were worshipped by ancient people so as they would protect them from harm. These kaiju films feature such monsters and have background information on their origins and the niche occupied in the lives of the ancient people. Such information describes the histories of extinct tribes that, according to the myths, we’re dependent on these creatures for survival and the establishment of the world order. According to the films, these monsters were lost in the ice age and preserved by ice over the years. The historical accounts provide the audience with some aspects of reality and legendary sensations that can allow for entertainment and education.
Consequently, the monsters are used to show the fight between evil and good in society. The fights between Godzilla and other monsters have shown how good triumphs over the evil nature of the world. Throughout human history, there has been the depiction of the battle between good and bad. Humans relate to the struggle that has caused losses of lives and conflicts between nations. These monsters reconcile the differences between good and evil through the scenes. Good always wins and triumphs over evil monsters. The metaphoric illustration of these monsters has enabled the film genre to increase its popularity as the audience relates to the struggles of being under oppressive forces and evil in the communities. The kaiju films are relevant in explaining common human struggles and the triumph over evil.
The Kaiju film genre gained popularity in the United States due to a combination factor by the producers’ love of monsters in the western world and the fear of nuclear weapons by the Japanese. The films have been able to get acceptance on both ends of the world and beyond, capitalizing on the Asian fears and legends and the western world’s fascination with gigantic monsters; more viewers and cultures appreciate the cinematic effects and visualization of uncommon monsters by the film world. The ideas of the western world and the legends and fear of nuclear weapons brought the rise of creatures from the deep trenches of the oceans that destroyed the human populations around the oceans.
The kaiju genre first became famous in Japan before spreading to other locations like the United States. Before introducing the kaiju genre in the United States, kaiju films were already produced and shown in Japan. The popularity was attributed to the common beliefs of the Japanese people about the legends of the monsters. The teachings being handed down in the community allowed all individuals to understand the origin of Godzilla and the other monsters. The children and youth who were primarily the targets of these shows were expected to understand the effects of war and the consequences of bad choices. Similarly, the films provided entertainment for the children as they would watch the shows and cheer for their favorite kaiju. Therefore, before being made an international film genre, kaiju was well appreciated in Japan.
These films featured one or several kaiju monsters and mainly were named after the main monster showcased by the filmmaker. The main movie in the kaiju genre was Godzilla to penetrate the American movie and theater market. The monsters before the launch of Godzilla were relatable to the Asian culture as opposed to the international world. Similarly, most of the films created were in Japanese and could only be translated for other audiences to understand. The dawn of the movie Godzilla allowed the viewers to experience a new culture and beliefs missing in the film industry; the idea of monsters other than dinosaurs and horror creatures intrigued a huge following in the civilized world. Due to the increased demand for more kaiju films, the producers had to create sequels and background films to create a franchise of kaiju-related movies in the theatres. Each sequel would be dedicated to the monsters being featured and showed the rich culture of Japanese legends and mythologies.
The 1954 Godzilla movie was the first one to feature huge monsters. Although Godzilla was the most famous, several other kaiju movies were produced in Japan, such as Gamera, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah, produced between 1956 and 1965 (Noriega, 1987, p. 70). The rivalry depicted among the kaiju monsters was made to entice the audience and explain to the viewers the powerful creatures whose intentions were to save and coexist with humans. Similarly, some creatures intended to dominate the world and be the only species on the planet. Compared to Godzilla, he wanted peace and had a distaste for nuclear weapons being used on land. The creature would emerge to destroy nuclear-related weapons as it represented the consequences of war and its effects on the land occupied by humans and the hollow regions of the planet. The monster dominated the planet and was resistant to all weapons.
The kaiju phenomena, the internal diversification and evolution of the formula, and the disparities in its reception in Japan and overseas had no place in the mainstream discourse, which tended to connect “culture” with “highbrow culture.”. As a result, when historians of Japanese film, academics, and journalists set out to tell the story of the country’s development into international markets, they frequently overlooked that it had happened in two stages. For years, experts had regarded kaiju with disdain publicly; as Tsutsui’s “coming out of the closet” book Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters demonstrates, some of them were fond of the genre privately. It is important to note that scholarly interest in kaiju is both young and restricted in scope. In general, academics focus on the first Godzilla film and seldom discuss the sequels or films starring other monsters. As a result, while there are many in-depth assessments of the original Godzilla, there are few of King Kong vs. Godzilla (Kingu Kongu Tai Gojira, 1962) or Mothra (Mosura, 1961), both of which are famous for their anti-consumerism. Furthermore, the majority of these investigations were carried out by Godzilla fans. The evolution – or rather, the ‘degradation’ of the scientific method is the determining element in this “unequal distribution of analyses” inside academia.
Godzilla’s narrative is simple, as it follows a well-worn monster movie formula. An ancient beast that had persisted for millions of years in an ecological niche in the deep water near Odo Island was irradiated during nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean. Following a series of frenzied attacks by the monster on a few ships and a fishing community, the authorities decide to form an investigating team led by paleontologist Dr. Yamane (Shimura Takashi). Researchers on Odo Island initially uncovered huge radioactive footsteps before being accosted himself. The government quickly moves to exterminate Gojira, as the beast is known among the islanders. The monster’s two following attacks on Tokyo demonstrate that the Japanese Self-Defense Forces are powerless against him.
The Oxygen Destroyer, designed by Dr. Serizawa, is Japan’s sole hope for survival. Despite being persuaded to slay the creature, he burns all of his notes and kills himself, ensuring that his creation will never be utilized again. Even though radioactive mutation was a popular theme in 1950s science-fiction films – for example, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), Monster from the Ocean Floor (1954), Them! (1954), It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), and Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) – Godzilla is quite different from its American counterparts. The most common interpretation of Godzilla is that the monster represents the atomic bomb, and the entire film serves as a cautionary tale against nuclear war. However, the ambiguous figure of Godzilla, who may be seen as both a demonic tyrant and an innocent victim of a weapon of mass devastation, tends to encourage less orthodox interpretations of the film.
Although this view separates Godzilla from his atomic environment, it does not dramatically differ from the filmmakers’ goals. However, this cannot be true of certain interpretations that attempt to define the meaning of a film. Scenes illustrating the Japanese Self-Defense Forces’ ineptitude in their battles with Godzilla are sometimes understood as a metaphor for fear of being unable to fight a hypothetical foreign invasion, particularly from the Communist Bloc. On the other hand, some contend that because Godzilla is presented as a monster from the Odo islanders’ legend, it is more plausible to see the film as an allegory for Japan’s previous imperialistic stance, which resulted in American reprisal that physically leveled Japanese cities.
Japanese pundits provide the most unconventional interpretations of this sort. The fact that the United States never supported Japan in its fight against the monsters in the realm of kaiju, sends a strong message to the Japanese that they can only rely on themselves to save their homeland. A lot of moments in Godzilla are evocative of current real-life situations. Following the first of the monster’s attacks on Tokyo, officials decide to relocate the city’s coastal residents to the countryside. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces’ evacuation operation is identical to one that the Empire Japanese Forces used to execute regularly a decade ago. Scenes portraying the use of mass media in the psychological mobilization of populations and the planning of mass evacuations reflect the reality of the Pacific War. Not only television, which was established in Japan in 1953 but also broadcast and the media, which were heavily employed by the government during the war, contribute significantly to these processes in Godzilla. The nuclear anxieties of Japanese society, stoked by the recent memories of American nuclear bombings and heightened by the Cold War’s expansion, resurfaced with new vigor after the Lucky Dragon 5 event was made public.
Despite the enormous success of Japanese monster pictures in North America and Europe, Godzilla and his family took a long time to break into “serious” public and scholarly debate. For decades, kaiju films were seen as “campy kiddie spectacles, devoid of specific creative, intellectual, or Socio-Political Aspects… ideological substance” and so judged undeserving of in-depth investigation. It’s worth noting that this approach was only one aspect of a larger perspective toward Japanese popular culture. The findings of a survey conducted in 1985 by “The New York Times” with Npr on 5000 Americans who have been asked to Dawid Gownia 70 name a famous Japanese person are by far the most revealing illustration of The Big G’s enormous popularity and awareness outside of its nation. Japanese, Robin Williams, and Godzilla were the top three selections.
Despite the negative reviews, the picture was a box office triumph, grossing $200,000 in its first week of release in the United States, opening the door for further Japanese horror films to be imported. The popularity of kaiju among American audiences, on the other hand, had little effect on the critics’ opinions on the formula. The first recognized Godzilla as much more than sophomoric entertainment following the American debut of the original film in 1982. The reviews were mainly positive this time, emphasizing the film’s ideological elements, which those American distributors would have previously edited out. Another interesting aspect that will be explored in “Godzilla” (1998) is the monster’s origin. Godzilla was mutated by nuclear radiation from a nuclear bomb experiment done by the French government- a clever approach to capture the link between intimidating nuclear power and the conception of Godzilla. In contrast, avoiding accusations of America’s negative impression when considering the spread of nuclear threats places America in the movie as the pure complainant of the giant monster.
The 1956 American remake of the 1954 film was the first notable example of the narrative of the 1954 film being significantly re-edited and new American protagonists being cast in the 1956 film. “Gojira” was renamed “Godzilla: King of the Monsters!” and astonished American audiences with the Beast’s great might, in contrast to Japanese audiences who were scared by the film’s retroactive links to the destruction of the city of Tokyo. Though Godzilla was slain by a secret weapon designed by Dr. Daisuke Serizawa in the conclusion of both versions, the disclaimer of Godzilla’s return and continuing nuclear bombing tests remained, the setting of each version was completely different. The extra American character, newspaper reporter Steve Martin, played by the late actor Raymond Burr (1917-1993), did not star in the movie. As a “gaijin” (non-Japanese person) who was compelled to see Godzilla’s initial appearance on Ot Island, he arrived on the nation’s capital, with a population of 6 million2, and wreaked havoc.
The commentaries and fanatics of the Godzilla films made reviews and comments on the role of the monster in abolishing nuclear wars. These heated discussions were facilitated in the film’s scenes as scientists and military personnel would argue about the significance of the kaiju on the planet. The controversial messages allowed these individuals to publicize the franchise and create opinions that made the international world reconsider the outlook on nuclear war. Testing of weapons unethically, the reminder of the consequences of war, and weapons that threatened humanity were well displayed by using monsters from beyond human history. The kaiju genre got many supporters as the variety of monsters gave further excitement and entertainment to the audience.
The American market was hungry for foreign subtitled films during the period. Godzilla’s primary audience was teenagers, who flocked movie theaters in millions of numbers (Brophy, 2000, p. 40). Compared to other American films, the Godzilla film was for general viewing as it combined comedy and thriller to entertain the audience. The scenes were well scripted to facilitate the viewing by all ages without discrimination. The choice of words and violent scenes were decent and could be easily understood by the viewers. In addition, the thrilling adventures captured in the film were plotted to entertain and capture the imagination of the audience through a fast buildup of scenes and contents film’s popularity set the pace for the entry of other films in this genre and the substantial growth of the genre (Tanikawa, 2020, p. 120). Most films would have slow builds and lose the concentration of the viewers, and young individuals would prefer films that are quick at unraveling the scenes. Therefore, the kaiju genre could attract young individuals through the films’ special qualities, hence gaining huge followership among teenagers.
In the later 1950 and early 1960s, new versions of movies featuring monsters produced by Hollywood studios led to the thriving of the kaiju genre in the nation. There was a decline in movie theatre attendance towards the end of the 1950s due to suburbanization and the introduction of television as a new mode of viewing. However, there were new entrants, such as American International Pictures (AIP). AIP distributed cheaply made American kaiju films mainly targeting teenagers (Luckhurst, 2020, p. 270). The company’s success and the movies were especially due to the focus on teenagers and the exciting and sensational nature of the films. Not only television, which was established in Japan in 1953 but also broadcast and the media, which were heavily employed by the government during the war, contribute significantly to these processes in Godzilla.
The local distributors continued to import more movies to meet the sustained demand for science and fiction films, ensuring the growth of the kaiju genre in the United States. One of the factors contributing to the genre’s success was that local distributors such as AIP continued to science fiction films in the 1960s even after Hollywood stopped producing movies in the sci-fi genre (Tsutsui, 2004, p. 116). Besides, the Japanese translated and dubbed films were surprisingly more exciting to the teenage American market. As a result, Godzilla became so publicized to become an American icon (Soles, 2021, p. 300).To date, the kaiju genre is still famous, and more monster films are likely to come up in the next few years.
In conclusion, Godzilla contributed significantly to the establishment and survival of the kaiju film genre in the United States. Targeting the younger generation was the primary strategy that led to the spread of monster films. The children and youth who were primarily the targets of these shows were expected to understand the effects of war and the consequences of bad choices. Similarly, the films provided entertainment for the children as they would watch the shows and cheer for their favorite kaiju. The movies show how humans make everything worse by engaging in pointless wars with creatures that have superiority. The emotional reactions are due to fear to lead to the use of excessive nuclear weapons that are only absorbed by the creatures and make them stronger. In addition, the distribution of cheaply produced kaiju films by companies such as AIP also led to increased popularity. Although the kaiju genre is not as popular as it used to be, it continues to entertain millions of Americans with films such as Godzilla. The company’s success and the movies were especially due to the focus on teenagers and the exciting and sensational nature of the films.
Anisfield, N., 1995. Godzilla/Gojiro: Evolution of the nuclear metaphor. Journal of Popular Culture, 29(3), pp.53-62.
Brophy, P., 2000. Monster Island: Godzilla and Japanese sci-fi/horror/fantasy. Postcolonial Studies: Culture, Politics, Economy, 3(1), pp.39-42.
Luckhurst, R., 2020. After monster theory? Gareth Edwards’s Monsters. Science Fiction Film and Television, 13(2), pp.269-290.
Mettler, M.W., 2018. Godzilla versus Kurosawa: Presentation and Interpretation of Japanese Cinema in the Post World War II United States. Journal of American-East Asian relations, 25(4), pp.413-437.
Noriega, C., 1987. Godzilla and the Japanese Nightmare: When” Them!” Is the US. Cinema Journal, pp.63-77.
Sakamoto, A., 2016. Frankenstein Conquers the World. Japan beyond Its Borders: Transnational Approaches to Film and Media, p.225.
Soles, C., 2021. Godzilla (1998) as camp de-extinction narrative. Science Fiction Film and Television, 14(3), pp.297-314.
Tanikawa, T., 2020. Kaiju Films as Exportable Content: Reassessing the function of the Japanese Film Export Promotion Association. In Routledge Handbook of Japanese Cinema (pp. 113-127). Routledge.
Tsutsui, W. M., 2004. Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters. St. Martin’s Griffin.