Giant monsters have always been a huge draw for horror fans and especially young audiences. Most of our early association with giant monsters is with the numerous Godzilla films and even Mighty Morphing Power Rangers or Ultraman. Ivan Vartanian has taken our love of the giant monster (and more specifically the Japanese giant monster) and crafted the book Killer Kaiju Monsters: Strange Beasts of Japanese Film. Although not a complete and comprehensive guide to Japanese monsters it does give readers a quick overview of some of the most popular starting with the Big G himself – Godzilla.
Each monster in the book is accompanied with stills from the films that they were featured in as well as a filmography of those films (for the completest that needs to see all the films their favorite giant monster may have appeared in). You can’t understand what Japanese giant monster films are unless you understand the term “kaiju” and Vartanian does a great job explaining to the casual viewer what a kaiju is and what it meant in the original Japanese giant monster films. In fact, Vartanian also delves into character design and presents cross sections of kaiju in addition to illustrations and various forms of artwork that has been inspired by the kaiju.
A real highlight of the book is the look at soft-vinyl figure collecting and the plethora of pictures showcasing the various figures created over the years. There is even a paper craft kaiju in the book that allows you to put together your own “little” giant monster. One of the highlights for me was the Japanese illustrated comic at the end depicting kaiju against yokai (spirits and paranormal world creatures) in order to dramatize the thematic and stylistic differences between the two types of characters. Despite being exclusively in Japanese I can plainly understand what is going on due to the illustrations.
As I mentioned before this is in no way a comprehensive book as it really only focuses on Godzilla and his rogue’s gallery of monsters with a small mention of Gamera. I could’ve gone for a longer book that had more info on many more overlooked kaiju but this is a great starting on point for those wanting to know more as this is the basics.