My 10 Favorite Kaiju

It's a blogger crossover! I don't know how we got there last week exactly, but a few of us - including Michael May from the Adventureblog and ShadowWing Tronix from BW Media Spotlight - encouraged one another to each post our top 10 giant, city-destroying monsters, or "kaiju". I have no illusions about my own list (I consider all other participants better versed on the subject - SW_Tronix gives Godzilla comics sizable blogspace and Michael actually WRITES a kaiju comic, Kill All Monsters), and I hope I don't disappoint any fans of the genre too badly. I've even gone off the Toho reservation quite a bit with some of these. Thanks for your indulgence. UPDATE! We were joined by the Laughing Ferret Lab and That F--ing Monkey as the crossover continues to expand into other blogs!

Honorable Mentions
I just wanted to give a shout out to a couple of unusual giant monsters that didn't make my list, but my RPG pal Marty wouldn't be satisfied if I didn't mention the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. Chev Chelios as a giant electric monster is the only good thing about Crank 2; the movie's just too awful for Chev to make the list, but I still wanted to pay tribute to the tribute. (All things considered, Hot Fuzz's tribute is better though the combatants aren't actually giants.) And while I thought of the old Rampage arcade game while doing this, George and Lizzie are obviously based on a couple of high-profile monsters already on the list, and whoever thought to make the third one, Ralph, a giant werewolf, was evidently off his nut. Still, good times.

10. Gamera
I'll admit I have very little experience with the turtle from space, but it's something I want to rectify. Godzilla's #1 competitor in Japan is a hardshell hero who spits fire and ice and by retracting his back legs, shoots rocket exhaust that allows him to fly. It's as if Godzilla and Rodan had a baby, and that baby didn't suck like his avian parent. Yes, I went there. Rodan looks like an airplane with pterodactyl skin thrown on it and I don't get it.

9. Starro the Conqueror
Our first American kaiju is a starfish from space that spawns babies of itself that attach on people's faces and takes control of them. Starro fought the Justice League and the Zoo Crew, showed up in several animated series, and makes an awesome HeroClix figure. Though it took him away from kaiju-land a little, I even liked the recent retcon from Tony Bedard's R.E.B.E.L.S. Actually, I may like him better as that interdimensional badass. The big starfish is still a "motherstar" used by Starro's forces to spore us into submission, so it's not like it was done away with.

8. Fin Fang Foom
A giant, humanoid, karate-fighting, Chinese dragon with shorts?! Guys, it's the shorts that make Fin Fang Foom so awesome! Yes, he's something of a joke, but it's a joke that's made him more memorable than any of the other monsters in early Marvel Comics. And one well exploited in such books as Fing Fang Four and the much-missed Nextwave. FFF is the hardluck monster who can't catch a break, and he's lovable for it. I almost gave the Marvel spot to Galactus, but as his kaiju status is more borderline and Foom is a Lee/Kirby creation too, he was a better choice in the end. And in true kaiju tradition, he's both a force for destruction AND sometimes chooses to defend the Earth.

7. Fingerzilla
This one's silly, but so much fun. It's just a finger tap game on my iTouch, but it's entirely satisfying to destroy property and stomp on tax collectors and other disliked professions at furious speed to the sounds of explosions and Godzilla-type skronks. I think I've played enough to warrant Fingerzilla rising to #7 on this list. Damn, now I'm thinking about a cheap Halloween disguise where I only have to make my hand up...

6. Anguirus

Godzilla's foe in his second movie, Godzilla Raids Again, he's the best thing about the lackluster retread, and starts the tradition of Godzilla sharing the screen with other monsters and in effect, becoming a "hero". There's something that makes me squirm about their fight sometimes presented in fast-motion. It's an odd choice. Usually, the monsters' large size is simulated by slower motions, but the reverse still packs a punch. It makes them look like frenetic animals. And poor Anguirus, especially in follow-up appearances, on film and other media like comics, is just sort of... sweet. I think it's the fact that he's on four legs where most four-limbed kaiju are upright. He's like the Pluto to Godzilla's Mickey Mouse or something.

5. King Kong
And specifically, the 1933 original. Though other Kongs have had their moments, it's the first one I keep returning to, wondering just how they achieved was they did that early in cinema history. So impressive. Unlike the kaiju standard set by his one-time reptilian co-star Godzilla, the cinematic granddaddy of them all was a stop-motion creature, not a guy in a suit, and all the better for it. King Kong has some incredible expressions that could not have been achieved with a rubber suit. He fights dinosaurs, climbs the Empire State Building, and dies a tragic death. What's not to love?

4. Cthulhu
I could have thrown a number of Lovecraft's Great Old Ones at this list, but what would have been the point? They're all pretty much the same in concept - ancient cosmic gods that make you lose your mind when you see them - and Cthulhu is the most iconic. A gigantic monster sleeping under the see, with an octopus for a head. Simple. Terrifying. Awesome. I've played my share of Call of Cthulhu RPG scenarios in my day, but have never used the Main Guy. Too obvious? Keeping him for some big blow-out? I don't know. I kind of regret it now. Maybe he's just too big for me. Maybe I'm scared of missing my SAN roll.

3. King Ghidorah
My favorite Godzilla villain of all time is the second "King" on the list (of three), and like Anguirus, it's because he makes me SQUIRM. I've been trying to put my finger on it. I think it's his armlessness. He's a wriggly three-headed snake with feet, two tails, a fat body and large bat-like wings. From space. Who shoots lightning bolts from his triplicate gullet. The heads are obviously on strings, which is what gives him that terrifying, haphazard, tentacular movement. And he's quite a big bigger than Godzilla. This is the guy who, in his first appearance (Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster), had to be repelled by THREE of the kaiju genre's biggest stars, Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan (still don't get it). In his second, Invasion of the Astro-Monster, monsters still need to team up to fend him (this time, Godzilla and Rodan). Destroy All Monsters? Loads of monsters needed to beat him off. By Godzilla vs. Gigan, his heart doesn't seem to be in it anymore. He teams up with Gigan and the two of them are defeated by Godzilla and, wait for it... Anguirus! Still, every time I see Ghidorah show up, my heart skips a beat!

2. Godzilla
The King of Monsters himself, Godzilla, was always going to be near the top of this list. Whether it's the terrifying Hiroshima allegory from 1954's Gojira, or the fuggly green hero who pulls wrestling moves on other monsters in the late 60s and early 70s, the deus ex machina from the cartoons, or the force of nature that currently seems to ignore humanity as we would dust mites in the IDW comics, I love this monster. I do have a blind spot - never really seen anything from the 80s onwards (maybe parts of the awful American Godzilla, the less said the better). So I have all that material to discover as my life-long love affair with Godzilla progresses.

1. Mothra
And yes, more than all the others, the giant butterfly attended by twin fairies on Infant Island is my ultimate favorite kaiju. Not so much the caterpillar form that spits sticky silk at opponents, but the beautiful moth beating its wings so hard, the wind makes Godzilla fall and strain to get back up again. Unusually, Mothra is specifically identified as female (at least in English subtitles and dubs), and is a hero from day one (long before Gamera came to fill that niche, though not in the Tohoverse), someone humanity can call upon to help against threats like Godzilla. She LITERALLY has a cult following, and may have divine origins. She's the only kaiju with her own, haunting, song(s). There's no giant monster like her. None. And perhaps for that reason alone, she's my #1.

Now wait, no Mechagodzilla? While he DID feature in the first kaiju movie I ever saw and captured my imagination, there's some question about whether a mechanical construct can count as kaiju, even one using Godzilla as a template. Therefore, and without warning my crossover partners (what's a crossover without a big continuity mess anyway?), I've decided to post a list of  My 10 Favorite Giant Robots next week! Need someone to fight those kaiju bad boys, right? Whether anyone cares to follow me on this project is up to them. :-)


Michael May said...

Awesome list. We think enough alike that I expected some similarities, but I'm still surprised at how close our lists are. Starro's an especially nice addition that I didn't think of!

Siskoid said...

To be fair, the half we have in common falls under the heading of no-brainer: Classic classic monsters. I expect to see them on most lists. It's all about the other 5!

Are you going to follow up with a giant robot post next week like I am?

ShadowWing Tronix said...

I didn't even think about going to the comics and I'm not sure why. (Although you'll see in my list tonight I grabbed the comic images from my media library when they existed) Some good choices there.

Siskoid said...

Can't wait to read it. I might have used some pics from the comics too, especially the superlative Half-Century War.

One kaiju from the Godzilla comics that didn't make it in: Charles Barkley.

Kal said...

That was a great post. Of course Mothra is number one. I got to watch that again.

Michael May said...

Yep! Sounds like some of the others are too.

Thursday again?

Siskoid said...

Might as well make it a week, day for day.

Michael May said...

It's a plan!

chiasaur11 said...

No mention of Fin Fang Foom's superteam, the Fin Fang Four? Shame.

Also, Godzilla is better than Mothra. I mean, yes, Mothra's song is in-Universe, but March of Godzilla is pretty much the defining giant monster theme song.

Siskoid said...

Godzilla's theme is one of cinema's greatest themes ever. And I agree with your point, it's why it's called My 10 FAVORITE Kaiju, the the 10 BEST. (Lawyered!)

And I sure did mention the Fin Fang Four, look again!

Andrew Gilbertson said...

If you want the heights of cheesy Gamera (he has about 2 semi-serious films before it goes more kiddie and silly than anything Godzilla ever did), try Gamera vs. Zigra, the pinnacle of his silly 60s films. If you prefer a more serious version, the Hesei reboot trilogy is fair-to-middling... until you get to the third entry, which actually achieves Godzilla levels of awesome. :-)

Hooray for Angiras (my wife's favorite). Did you know the super-fast motion was apparently a mistake- undercranking the camera instead of overcranking it?

"And specifically, the 1933 original. Though other Kongs have had their moments, it's the first one I keep returning to, wondering just how they achieved was they did that early in cinema history. So impressive."
Here here. O'brien was so innovative; some of those ideas are just GENIUS.

"never really seen anything from the 80s onwards"
My wife and I just finished rewatching the 90s (Hesei) series (about 7 films)... for my money, the best Godzilla series. Well worth a watch, especially the second one (Godzilla vs. Biollante).

Siskoid said...

I'm taking notes Andrew!

I did know about the camera cranking, doesn't make it any less disturbing.

Andrew Gilbertson said...

Very true! :-)


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