Book Reviews: The Kaiju Film: A Critical Study of Cinema's Biggest Monsters

The Kaiju Film: A Critical Study of Cinema's Biggest Monsters by Jason BarrAuthor Jason Barr’s book The Kaiju Film is the most definitive piece of literature released that takes an objective and critical examination of the Kaiju genre of motion pictures. Kaiju eigu is roughly translated to mean “monster movie,” which we primarily associate with Godzilla and the other Japanese produced giant monster movies. But Godzilla is just one of many giant monsters and this book takes an in depth look at the whole Kaiju genre, going beyond just Godzilla and into cinema across the globe. In this, he attempts to redefine what constitutes a Kaiju film and suggests that it is a phenomenon that has been wrongly identified as science fiction.

His exploration goes deep into the roots of Japanese culture and folklore and details key elements that influenced the structure and format of the Kaiju genre, including Yokai (folklore creatures), Bunraku (traditional puppet theater), and Kabuki and Noh theater. Great detail is taken to explain how these basically served as a formula for the first Godzilla (1954) and most of the ones to follow.

He then covers in each chapter the various themes that were consistently explored in this genre, displaying both global and national conflicts and anxieties. He goes into an enormous amount of detail in order to show how the stories, monsters, and people portrayed in the movies have reflected an assortment of concerns that were representative of their respective era. Contrasted with that is a comprehensive look into the historical and political events that were occurring and how they are characterized in each picture. These anxieties and fears include the aftermath of nuclear war and further threats of nuclear disasters, natural disasters, terrorism, forms of pollution, the current global and internal politics of the particular era, industrial progress, colonialism, relationships with other countries, scientific advancements and their dangers, and the evolution of military and its increasing perils.

Another chapter analyzes how Americans managed to become obsessed with something that is so culturally different and how the pictures have been altered to appeal more towards Western audiences. The depiction of females in the Kaiju genre is analyzed, as well as the use of body horror by showing the metamorphosis and the physical assaults that happen to the humans. The final chapters take a look at how nostalgia has affected fans views on the genre as a whole and whether or not it can survive in the new world of cinema, where audiences demand constant action and CGI.

godzilla the kaiju film jason barr
This train tastes amazing. Anyone want a bite?

If you’re looking for a book that takes a serious look as this genre and the somber and scary issues that they have historically addressed, then this is for you. There’s actually a whole lot more going on in these motion pictures than just monsters crushing cities. It may also provide a better understanding and appreciation for the recent American release Godzilla (2014), which was directed by Gareth Edwards. If you’re simply looking for a book that focuses on Godzilla and the production histories of each picture, then this isn’t for you. This is an excellent look into the severe topics that are addressed within the genre and comes highly recommended.

This book was published by McFarland and can be purchased online at or by calling their order line (800-53-2187). It is also available as an ebook from all major ebook providers, for a complete list of providers see

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-Raul Vantassle